Volunteer Spotlight: Pat Orr on Giving People a Purpose


Volunteer, Pat Orr, with Celine Regalia, Program Director, at the 2016 Volunteer Awards Event.

“Being a teacher, I know that you have to give people a purpose…”


Contribute your skills, energy, generosity, and caring to Collabria Care! Our programs rely on dedicated, compassionate volunteers to assist our staff with a wide variety of support services. We’ll train you to work in areas you find most rewarding.

To find out more about volunteering opportunities, please contact Anne House at ahouse@collabriacare.org or call 707-258-9080

For Pat, there was no single “ah-ha!” moment that lead her to become a Collabria Care volunteer. It was more of a natural progression of her life, and a way to combine so many of her passions.

With a background in public education – having taught for 20 years at Pueblo Vista elementary school – a love for gardening, a sharp mind for science, and a keen interest in people whose lives were very different from hers, Pat has spent most of her life following the guidance of her inner wisdom. While the prospect of retirement can frighten or stagnate some individuals, Pat said she knew she wouldn’t struggle in those ways. “I knew my loves,” she said. “So I had no problem… I could just do whatever I wanted.”

She followed her interests in entomology and gardening, and that lead her to become a UC Master Gardener of Napa County, which also lead her to Collabria Care. She began as a horticultural therapy volunteer, assisting Collabria Day Program participants with gardening activities, once a week for about three years. When asked to reminisce about her early experiences, she said “I came to love the people that came out . But I wanted more!”

She modified her volunteer time to include direct work with all Collabria Day Program participants, most of whom suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia. It didn’t take long to realize that her skills in creating interesting activities and breaking them down into smaller steps for students were just as applicable to the adult participants at Collabria Care. She has had great success bringing in board games and having people play a modified version, if necessary, according to individual skill levels.

The key to her success is her genuine interest in people, and her desire to see them shine in whatever it is that they can do. “Being a teacher,” she says, “I know that you have to give people a purpose. My mother lived to be 96. And I saw as she got older, the less I did for her and made her do it for herself, which gave her a purpose.”

Pat acknowledges there are important differences between her volunteerism and her former profession. “Working with children, you are working toward skill improvement in things like reading and writing,” she says. “Working with the participants in the Collabria Day Program, you are enabling people to re-engage in life and become more socially active,” and that is very different for adults than it would be for children.

Recognizing that there is always more to learn, and are always ways to be of better service, Pat also takes the opportunity to attend annual seminars on Alzheimer’s disease. Educating herself has helped her grow personally, and as a volunteer. She says her experience at Collabria care has helped her learn to listen to people more. It also helped her redefine her purpose in retirement years. “My goal is to make people feel good about themselves; to help them accomplish something so that they get that warm feeling inside,” she said. “The need for volunteers is so great. And,” she laughs, “I need to be needed!”

Pat would like to encourage others to come to Collabria Care, and give volunteering a try. There are a myriad of volunteer opportunities; people can volunteer in ways that feel right to them, with the utmost respect given to individual limits. Even Pat Orr, who has made such an impact at the Day Program, draws the line somewhere. “There is not a part inside that I do not love… except the dishes,” she says. “I won’t do dishes!” We hear you, Pat. Consider the dishes to be off the table.

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