Physical therapy assistants encourage others to volunteer


The Big Cheese in Community Needs

Submitted By: Vanessa Richardson, SPTA, and Emily Krzyzanowski SPTA.

Sharing this experience with the Oakton community displays that although our lifestyle has changed due to COVID-19, we encourage others to help those in any way they can.

Volunteering is an essential part of meeting community needs, which has become more important than ever during the pandemic, and parallels values of the Physical Therapist Assistant. Physical well-being starts in our homes and with our daily habits that allows us to enjoy the benefits of health as well as recover when we get sick. 

Studying and working as a student in the field of physical therapy has allowed us to personally witness patient success outcomes directly correlated to their previous health status. 

Eating well has always been a priority in our lives, but we understand that some families don’t always have the luxury to access nutritional food due to their location and/or financial hardship. After completing our in-service project with the Pilsen Food Pantry, we were left with a new appreciation for quality community assistance. 

Sharing this experience with the Oakton community displays that although our lifestyle has changed due to

COVID-19, we encourage others to help those in any way they can.

Sharing this experience with the Oakton community displays that although our lifestyle has changed due to COVID-19, we encourage others to help those in any way they can. 

— Vanessa Richardson & Emily Krzyzanowski

Whether one is volunteering in food service, helping with clothing donations, delivering essential items, or teaching others, the help that one can give can go a long way. 

We were more than impressed at the efficiency, quality, and care brought from the organization to assist less fortunate individuals in the community. We find ourselves to be very excited about this food pantry, and as believers in preventative care, we find it only natural to publicize our positive experience with Pilsen Food Pantry so that the public is aware of these great resources and the benefits of volunteering opportunities.

We learned that Pilsen Food Pantry was a very large pantry requiring more than just small donations from the community. The organization has made business partnerships with Greater Chicago Food Depository, Imperfect Foods, and big corporations like Trader Joe’s to assist with larger community food demands. 

Charity connections to these food partnerships guarantee food quality and enough products required by the community. The pantry offers a great selection of a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and even fresh meat setting the bar high for future food pantries in providing great service. 

As families visit the pantry, they complete a form indicating the amount of members in the family. To fill out the form, they can check boxes of the products they want. The sheet is then sent downstairs where the volunteers are in action. 

The pantry initiated a system of volunteer “shoppers” to pick out the food required by families very much like grocery store pickup services. This allows the pantry to remain safe during the Covid-19 pandemic, limiting exposure, and keeping products clean. There were all sorts of families coming to the food pantry from single parents, to a family of three adults, or even as large as a family of six.

When we arrived, the other volunteers made us feel extremely welcome. Many of the

m had participated in the food pantry before, so they were very kind and happy to help. One of the other volunteers we met was a grad student studying Nutrition at UIC. 

It is interesting how all of us healthcare students were in the same place studying two different aspects of wellness. It comes to show that one’s quality of life is multifaceted and requires the skill of a variety of professionals’ expertise. As it pertains to the Standard of Ethical Conduct for the Physical Therapist Assistant, from the American Physical Therapy Association, a PTA must be able to work on a team of interdisciplinary professionals to attain the common goal of patient wellness and quality of life.

The American Physical Therapy Association  also states that the role of the Physical Therapist is to demonstrate compassion to people of different cultures and backgrounds by putting their needs first. We are grateful we can exercise these professional values as a student and are eager to continue well into our career. 

Although we did not directly volunteer in a typical physical therapy setting,  assisting families by providing quality food to the community allowed us to help those in need. From the student perspective, this experience made us more aware that we can be of  help to someone beyond their needs of physical therapy. 

We both strive to be professionals that recognize not only our patient’s impairments, but as a whole person who relies on their physical and mental function for quality of life. To us, this means that the Physical Therapist Assistant acknowledges and considers their patient’s pain, impairments, and all the things that contribute to mental wellness, including their ability to have healthy food on the table. 

In addition, the more we volunteer for the community, the more we can understand their needs and advocate for them. 

  Getting to know our community better allowed us to connect with others and inspired us to continue our volunteering participation. Lastly, supporting an organization that improves the health needs of the economically disadvantaged places a new perspective on our own lives by being part of something bigger.