An hour of volunteering every week may not seem like much. But for Emily Morrell, those hours have added up to a life-changing experience. Every year, through our TeamBlue volunteer program, BlueCross employees dedicate thousands of hours to support charities and causes across the state that matter to them. COVID-19 led many to seek out virtual opportunities, which is exactly how Emily, a clinical review manager at BlueCross and the 2022 TeamBlue Volunteer of the Year, found the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA) Phone Buddy program.
This Memphis-based initiative started during the pandemic after participants in the local Meals on Wheels program lost their usual social interaction with their drivers. It was an isolating time for many, but elderly residents who live alone were particularly affected.
The Phone Buddy program attempts to alleviate loneliness by pairing elderly community members with volunteers for weekly phone calls. Volunteers are assigned a few people to speak to once a week, allowing them to develop friendships. Emily has grown close to many of the people she talks with and has found the experience rewarding.
“They’re very sweet, wise and kind people who I enjoy talking to,” she says. “[My husband says] I am happiest after I talk with my people.”
Volunteering that fits her busy schedule
Between having a full-time job and being a full-time mom, Emily didn’t feel there was a lot of time for volunteering, but she’s glad she found a program that allows her to help people from her desk in Chattanooga.
“That hour a week adds up,” she says. “It seems too easy, and I enjoy it so much.”
It makes all the difference in the lives of those she serves, too. One frequent caller has dementia and has trouble remembering who Emily is, but she cherishes their time together. Another’s son recently passed away but has been joyful even in her time of loss. They have gone through so much, but their constant optimism inspires Emily.
Volunteer of the Year
In December, Emily was selected as the 2022 TeamBlue Volunteer of the Year. Ever humble, she felt undeserving of the recognition. “I’m sure there are so many other volunteers who deserve this more,” she says.
The Volunteer of the Year program is one way BlueCross recognizes the efforts of its employee volunteers. At the end of each year, all employees who log at least 20 volunteer hours are entered into a drawing. One winner is selected, and they receive a $5,000 donation from the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Foundation to a qualified organization of their choice.
When it came to choosing a recipient for her $5,000 donation, Emily took the task very seriously. After finding out she won, she asked many of her colleagues and friends about local organizations that needed help. Her goal was to find a lesser-known organization that would benefit significantly from the contribution.
The Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC), based in Chattanooga, creates a safe environment for children removed from abusive situations while providing resources for them to thrive. Their services include specialized therapy, as well as expert opinions in court cases.
“When I called the CAC, I was told how this money could make a huge difference for their organization,” Emily says. “They’ll use it to help pay for a therapy dog and the training they need to stay certified.”
Since Emily works in behavioral health care and is a certified counselor, she can relate to the organization’s mission and understands the importance of its work.
Going forward, she hopes to set up time for her and her team to volunteer with CAC in person.
“I think it would really be special if we could get out and use our clinical skills face to face with people,” she says. “The CAC does such good work, and our team would grow closer as well.”