Chad Nosbusch, associate director of financial aid for Graduate and Law programs at the University of St. Thomas, received Good Samaritan Society’s National Volunteer of the Year Award for his dedicated service to the organization.

Good Samaritan Society, the nation’s largest not-for-profit provider of senior care and services, has 240 centers nationwide and more than 25,000 staff and 27,000 volunteers. It will honor Nosbusch in June at its national meeting in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Nosbusch was nominated by Pamela Schultz, director, and Cheryl Steiner, volunteer services coordinator, of the Good Samaritan Society Inver Grove Heights Care Center where he has been a volunteer since 2000. He was thrilled but taken aback when, last week at the care center’s annual volunteer recognition dinner, he learned he’d been chosen for the award. “I was not even aware this award existed, so I was totally shocked when Pamela walked over to my table and told me that I received it,” he said.

He is the care center’s first volunteer to win the national award.

After losing his last grandparent, Nosbusch remembers wishing he would’ve spent more time with all of his grandparents in the last years of their lives. “That tugged at my heart strings, and this, in some way, is my way of making things right,” he said. “I like that I can help a few people be less lonely.” It was a few years later, in 2000, that he looked into volunteering for the elderly.

As a “one-to-one companion,” Nosbusch visits two residents for one hour each every Wednesday, visits he has made nearly every week for the past 12 years. In all, he has paid visits to 10 residents since he began volunteering at the care center. They often pass the time by going for walks, doing projects together or looking through photo albums, but mostly just chatting the hour away. “I know how to talk!” he admitted.

His “friends,” as he has come to call them, have taught him a lot during those hours. “I’ve learned that no matter what pain they’re experiencing or whatever it is that’s pulling them down, they are able to put on a smile and be present in the moment,” he said. “They remind me that if you’re here and have loved ones, that supersedes all the pain and sadness in life. When you have little to no privacy in your small room, when you must rely on people to help you go to the bathroom or remind you to take your medicine, your sense of pride is gone. But they can look beyond that.”

“My friends have given me more than I have given them,” he added. Nosbusch has come to think of their gifts as “simple reminders” to not take anything in life for granted – like being able to sign your name to a card, a feat of patience for some of the residents he’s met.

On April 13 he gave the eulogy at the funeral of Donna Grandy, a resident of the care center, with whom he visited weekly over the past year and a half. Grieving the deaths of his friends is a challenge to his work, he acknowledged. “They become an extension of my family. I get attached, and they pass away, but it’s a part of life. I like to think that I made their lives better in the time I was able to spend with them.”

Nosbusch credits his co-workers for making his commitment to the center possible. “I didn’t want to do it half-heartedly. I wanted to make it a part of my life, and to do that I needed the support of the staff,” he said.

On Wednesdays, he must leave early from work in order to accommodate the short window of time (4 to 6 p.m.) that his elderly friends are alert and available. But more than that, he appreciates how his staff often ask him to share stories of his time with his friends at the care center.

“I don’t volunteer to receive awards … it is something that has just become a part of me.  I get back so much more than I give.”