How volunteering at Cheshire helped me fight loneliness

George Scholl holds up a magazine while sitting at a desk
George Scholl holds up a copy of New Hampshire Magazine, which he helped contribute to in a piece about loneliness in 2023.

Working as a volunteer has been a lifesaver for me because I do not know how the loneliness would have affected me, in the long run, had I not sought volunteerism with both organizations but now, especially with Cheshire Medical Center.

George Scholl

This story is written by George Scholl, a longtime Cheshire Medical Center volunteer, about how volunteering has changed his life.
I retired in 2013 after a 40-year career in various management positions. For most of those years, I was a quality control manager for medical device companies that supplied urological, cardiac devices, and infant metabolic disorders to hospitals throughout the world. I took my job very seriously and was proud of the work that I did, making sure that the products were made to the specifications of FDA standards. I finished my career in sales at a company that supplied specialized labels for the medical industry that had barcodes for tracking samples and equipment.
As I approached retirement, the time was moving quickly to the date, and when I reached it, I could not believe I was now free to do whatever I wanted to do. There were some significant issues that I had to address when I retired, and shortly after my retirement, I found myself divorced. Eventually, I moved into my own condominium and found myself alone and that was very difficult for me. I decided that I did not need the money because I had planned well for my retirement, but I needed to get out in a business environment and volunteer in order to feel useful again by contributing to the greater good.
My solution was to volunteer for an organization that satisfied my personal mental needs after being devastated by divorce. I chose to volunteer.
First, I volunteered at The Community Kitchen in Keene. That was fantastic, and I met a lot of wonderful people who worked preparing meals for those in the community who did not know where their next meal was coming from.
I also decided to volunteer at our local community hospital, Cheshire Medical Center. I spoke with the director of volunteer services at the time, and it was decided that I would best fit into the info desk responsibility in the main lobby because I had displayed an outgoing personality in my interview with her.
The pandemic put an instant hold on both volunteer jobs, and it was driving me crazy. I was one of the first Cheshire volunteers to return to the medical center, volunteering four out of five days at the information desk. This was a fantastic occurrence. I did not go back to The Community Kitchen due to how much time I was volunteering at Cheshire.
During the years before, during, and after the pandemic, I was strongly affected by loneliness. I lived in a condominium and continue to do so, but there were not a lot of social events where I chose to live. I knew that both the Community Kitchen and the Cheshire Medical Center employed people who truly wanted to help and care about the people in the community, and that is what I wanted to do.
I have met so many people who either work or are patients at Cheshire — and I have loved every minute of it. I have become friends with both patients and employees, and I see them around town.
Besides telling people the answers to their questions, my goal from the start (and continues to be) is to try to ease the tension and stress that people get when they enter a medical facility. I really work at trying to make them smile and laugh. This goes for both employees and patients. The pandemic has stressed everyone out.  As a result, for me anyway, the info desk always has people dropping by to chitchat, talk about their medical condition, say hello, and things like that.
Working as a volunteer has been a lifesaver for me because I do not know how the loneliness would have affected me, in the long run, had I not sought volunteerism with both organizations but now, especially with Cheshire Medical Center. Sometimes I feel like a Jekyll and Hyde in that my personality changes when I get to the hospital, and I am upbeat, cheerful, and interactive with all the people I come in contact with. When I get home to my condominium, I can feel the loneliness, but it is much less because of my volunteer job and the social aspects that it provides for me. There have been times when I have had — and still do have — some significant sadness and loneliness, and I have sought treatment for the effect of loneliness on me.
Thank goodness for Cheshire Medical Center, the people who work there, and the patients who come in every day. They give me meaning and a feeling of importance in what I do at the hospital that would not exist if I were isolated in my home. I go out to dinner with friends, attend club meetings, and talk on the phone to fill in the times that I am not at the Information Desk.
In conclusion, I feel that this type of approach after retirement is something to strongly consider if you find that your situation is similar to mine. I often hear people say as they approach retirement that they have so much to do that it will take years to get it all done, but for many, they need something more, and volunteering is one way to do it.
Volunteers are essential to helping Cheshire Medical Center fulfill its mission. They welcome visitors, comfort patients and families, and help with essential jobs throughout our campus. Cheshire caregivers are able to focus on healing patients thanks to the work our volunteers and staff do every day. Learn more about how you can volunteer.