For almost 40 years, a volunteer group has operated virtually anonymously
The Northland is home to many different volunteer groups. One you might not have heard of is aptly called “The No Names.” The group started with Joe Swartz in 1976, when a small group of guys visited a nursing home in Riverside. The name of the group was the “no names,” and that name came about because the residents they visited always wanted to know what church they were from, and Swartz would say they did not represent a church and they had no name. The group has grown considerably since in the last 40 years, but has stayed true to the name and the mission.
“We presently go to Maple Wood Care Center, Riverside Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and Hillview Nursing and Rehab in Platte City. We have a little over ninety members. It is a mixture of males and females, and most of our members are over 50 and many are 60+,” member Al Babich says.
Kathie Hopper and her husband have been a member of the group since 1981.
“On our visits, we offer magazines and sugar-free candy to any who want them. When visiting, we spend about five minutes in each room, and there are usually four to six people visiting at a time. We are organized in groups for each of the nursing homes, mostly by alphabet. Typically, we visit each about four to five times a year. We would really like to have younger people join us. The residents really love to see children and pets,” Hopper says.
Volunteering can have a great benefit to those volunteering.
“I feel I benefit most by seeing the happiness on each of the faces of the people we see, especially those who do not have any other visitors. It makes me thankful that I can brighten someone’s life even if for only a short time. All are welcome who have a heart for lifting the spirits of those not able to get out,” Hopper says.
Babich has a slightly different take on the benefits of volunteering.
“I feel I need to act and think beyond what just ‘benefits’ me. We can say it is a Christian mantra or a spiritual mantra, but I believe it is what makes us human. Matthew 25: 40 ‘…whatever you did for one these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Joe Swartz who founded No Names was a very spiritual man and I think people of like beliefs joined No Names because they shared his values of service to his fellow human,” Babich says.
The No Names do not do any advertising but with over 90 members, that doesn’t appear to be holding them back.
“Traditionally our new members have come from solicitations and recommendations of active members. We pretty much have kept a low profile because we are the ‘No Names’. Many of our members have come from church memberships or the Rotary or other organizations,” Babich says.
The group is reaching out to hopefully attract new members and to pay tribute to all members who have quietly served this community since 1976.
“I think the bottom line is we go and have fun with the residents. Sometimes you get a blank stare and no signs of acknowledgement, but I think the fact we acknowledge them as a fellow human is registered somewhere with the residents,” Babich says.