West View Volunteer inducted into Wayne County Senior Hall of Fame

Recent article in the Daily Record:

WOOSTER -- Sharon Pooler has 10 dogs, all co-existing peaceably in her home.

Some are rescues, some are shelter dogs. A few, she said, are hand-me-downs. And on any given day, a few of them will jump in the car with her and head to West View Healthy Living in Wooster, where they will be greeted by both staff and residents alike.

They will make that trip five or six days a week every week. "It can be for an hour," Pooler said. "It can be for 12 hours."

Pooler may stay with the dogs while they visit, but other times she can be found decorating or serving in the Wednesday ice cream caf or helping Kelli Beckler with fundraising projects.

Volunteers are asked to log their time, said Beckler, West View's development and public relations director. In 2014, Pooler "logged 804 hours," Beckler said, "and I know that's not even close to what she probably had."

Already this year, Pooler and Beckler agreed, the number is probably more than 1,000 hours.

"I get sidetracked. I'm doing stuff," Pooler said. "I'm not going to clock in and out."

While Pooler kept busy this year, Beckler decided the volunteer was the perfect candidate for the Direction Home Akron Canton Area Agency on Aging & Disabilities Senior Citizen Hall of Fame. The award, which was presented Dec. 10, honors older adults in the agency's four-county service area who have made significant contributions to their communities through volunteerism and civic service. Pooler was named the Wayne County inductee.

"I came in the back door to (volunteering at West View)," Pooler said, "because of my parents coming."

Pooler had been an interior designer and had owned Framer's Guild & Gallery when her children went off to college and the health of her Florida-based parents started to fail. She sold the business when she found more and more of her time was spent on the road and when her parents eventually relocated to Wooster.

When her mother was hospitalized, Pooler noticed how her demeanor would change when she got a visit from a therapy dog. Pooler, who had always had dogs, decided to begin therapy dog training.

Both of Pooler's parents moved to West View and she started volunteering there in 2006, the year her mother died. She also began volunteering for LifeCare Hospice, which had helped both her mother and her father, who died in 2009.

With 150 West View residents, "it takes me a while to get around," Pooler said. "But I try to make the rounds once a week."

The dogs come, too.

"With the dogs, that opens a lot of doors," Pooler said. "People who don't want to say anything will talk to them."

The dogs have been known to lay in bed for up to eight to 10 hours with a dying patient, she said.

Death is part of the bargain when working with older people and with hospice clients and that can be hard. But, Pooler said, there are rewards, like "just knowing that you hopefully made a difference in their life."

And for those without families, she said, "I have sat in with quite a few people while they were dying, because I would want someone to be there. I hope that some day if I'm in this situation, someone will do this for me."

It's a lesson in caring she already is passing on to her five grandchildren, as she takes them along to West View when they're visiting Wooster. The eldest, a 7-year-old, "has really grown up here," Pooler said. "She asks me questions and she understands life and death."

Many of her projects employ those interior decorating skills she used over the years. A large Christmas tree outside the facility's chapel gets decorated for all seasons and holidays, while 20 smaller trees throughout the building are decked, a long with the halls, for Christmas. And for residents who have no decorations, Pooler makes sure they have something, too.

It's hard to know what West View would do without her, Beckler said. "She just really makes a big impact on us and helps us meet our mission here."

For her part, Pooler said, it's all about "friendship, happiness and smiles. The smiles are worth it all and people like to be held, to be held and hugged."

Reporter Tami Mosser can be reached at 330-287-1655 or tmosser@the-daily-record.com.