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Volunteers as essential workers? In part one of a two part interview, Dr. Paul Falkowski discusses how he began his journey to designate volunteers as essential workers. Paul shares how he became a champion for volunteers in nursing homes through a nonprofit he built from the ground up. Paul discusses the importance of team, volunteer education and training, skin in the game, and navigating volunteer management challenges. In the next episode, he discusses his ambitious plan to designate volunteers as essential workers

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Dr. Paul Falkowski is dedicated to serving the people who live and work in long-term care communities. Paul has a bachelor’s degree from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in Music and a Master’s degree in Gerontology from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and went on to earn a doctorate in Gerontology also from the University of Nebraska.  He was first attracted to the field of aging through his volunteering in nursing homes providing musical entertainment. In 1993, he formed a nonprofit that recruited and trained some 700 volunteers for Omaha and Lincoln nursing homes over 26 years. In 2003, he contacted the Department of Gerontology at the UNO and was encouraged to pursue a Gerontology graduate certificate.  Eighteen years later, he teaches online courses for the Department of Gerontology, conducting research and consulting with nursing homes. He recently developed the course “Volunteer Management and Aging Services” and is working on publishing a study in which he connects volunteerism in long-term care and the nursing home’s quality of care measures. Also, he authored “Creating the Volun-Cheer Force: Rethinking the way we use volunteers in nursing homes” and formed VolunCheerLeader LLC to provide support to nursing home managers of volunteers. His passion for volunteerism and improving the care of older adults is unwavering.

VolunCheerLeader website

Thank you, Paul for sharing your inspirational journey and vision for the future with us. And for imagining, no, working tirelessly towards a world in which volunteers are essential workers.

Be sure to catch episode 2, in which Paul lays out his vision for elevating volunteers.

-Meridian