Goodman Community Center | Volunteer Spotlight: Elise Cowley

Volunteer Spotlight: Elise Cowley

Get to know Elise Cowley, one of our weekly Older Adult lunch volunteers!

September 15, 2023 |
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Elise (standing, red shirt) with the Monday Older Adult lunch crew.

I started volunteering at Goodman in 2020 as a fill-in driver for senior meals. When the senior meal program started back up in-person in August 2021, I transitioned to helping out as a Monday first shift senior lunch volunteer, and I've stayed there ever since. I started volunteering because I wanted to give back to my community. I didn't have money to give, but I did have time. I had gone to various activities at Goodman over the years and knew it was an organization with a wide reach in the community, so I filled out the volunteer application. This was also in the midst of the pandemic when many of us were thinking about ways to give back and how we could contribute. A friend, whom I admire very much, mentioned in 2020 how people can talk a lot about how they think society should function and work better, but what are they actually doing about it? That conversation catalyzed my want to volunteer. I wanted to be a part of a community and help others, not just talk about helping others.

Volunteering with the senior meal program is the highlight of my week. Originally, I had wanted to volunteer in a youth program, but once I got the chance to chat with the seniors and be a part of senior lunch, I never looked back. Senior lunch is special and a joy to work for. I've gotten to know many of the regular lunchtime participants, and I look forward to their updates each week. I also enjoy getting to make first time lunch participants feel welcome. I live close to Goodman, and I often see many of the people that participate in senior lunch outside of Goodman and it makes me feel connected and like I am part of the community. I enjoy the pace of senior lunch and all the things that keep you on your toes — I've gotten used to the organized chaos! I always leave my shift feeling like I helped someone out in some small way, even if that was just getting them a glass of cold ice water when they walked in from a hot summer day, remembering their normal drink order or bringing them their meal.

It is great to show up every week and get to work with my fellow outstanding volunteers, Jane, Teri, Max, and Edith, alongside Abby, our fantastic and unwavering staff member. I've been volunteering with Jane and Terri since 2021 and having a consistent crew of such great people has taught me a lot. They always show up with a smile and a laugh. I can't overstate how wonderful it is to work with this group of people. Every one of them steps up and does more than their part each week. They make showing up every Monday easy and fun.

Outside of Goodman, I am an MD/PhD student at University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am originally from a small town in rural northern Nevada but moved to Wisconsin for my graduate training. My research is in microbiology. I research how the gut microbiome affects our overall health and how we affect our gut microbiome. I also have several side research projects on reproductive healthcare. I have two community garden plots and am currently hard at work preserving the abundance of crops from them. I enjoy hiking in the many county and state parks, and in the winter, I try to go snowshoeing regularly. I like to fish but haven't gone fishing in Wisconsin as often as I would have liked because I am not familiar with where to go or how to fish in this area. I am an avid reader and often see Goodman Community Center members when I am at the Hawthorne Library.

I am fortunate to be able to be at Goodman every week and volunteer. Being able to interact with the seniors, staff, and other volunteers brings me a lot of fulfillment. I give a few hours each week to the senior meal program, but I feel like they’re giving me much more than I give them.

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