On a cold January day in the Berkshires, Riverbrook resident Katie crouches on the floor while an adorable, fluffy white dog named Teddy climbs onto her lap to lick her face. Katie has always had a way with dogs, and the same is true for Teddy’s owner, volunteer Amy Rutstein. It’s just one of the reasons the two women have bonded over the years.

Amy knows how to put people at ease, and when you speak with her it’s clear she also has a natural inclination to make people laugh. That, plus her many years as a Berkshire Hills teacher helping students develop their reading skills, led founder Joan Burkhard to invite Amy to volunteer at Riverbrook in 2005.

When she asked Amy to volunteer, Joan had Katie in mind. Katie could read, but Joan knew that her reading skills—and her enjoyment—would be stronger if she had someone working with her consistently. Years later, Katie is a great reader and she and Amy have moved on to other pursuits. Mainly, they spend Wednesday afternoons enjoying each other’s company, playing board games, and laughing a lot. And of course, walking and snuggling Amy’s dog Teddy.

For Amy, volunteering at Riverbrook has been a great experience. “I love coming to Riverbrook,” she writes. “Upon entering, you become part of a warm, wonderful family that has abundant respect and kindness for each other. I truly enjoy being part of Riverbrook and the grand times I spend with Katie!”

Once a year, Amy and Katie go out to lunch and invite Volunteer Coordinator Ruth Hanley to join them. Ruth says these lunches are a testament to the friendship the two women share. “Amy tells us many funny stories about her dog, Teddy, which sends Katie into fits of laughter. It is clear to see the wonderful bond the two have formed which has greatly enriched Katie’s life.”

Riverbrook volunteers are matched with residents to develop meaningful, long-lasting friendships. The gift of your time can have an immeasurable impact for a woman with developmental disabilities. To volunteer, call us at (413) 298-4926 speak with volunteer coordinator Ruth Hanley.

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