When Carol Arbuckle first heard about the need for volunteers at The Well Community through her church, First Baptist Frisco, she and her husband, Murray, had already discussed a desire to do something in service to God beyond giving things and money. Looking back, she sees His hand in bringing the opportunity to serve at The Well to her attention at just the right time.
Carol was familiar with the challenges faced by those living with mental illnesses, as well as with the positive impact that a supportive community can have in their lives. She saw one of her grandparents struggle with mental health issues and acknowledges that her grandmother’s situation could have been very different if she hadn’t been surrounded by caring family members. “My grandmother had a very good supportive family, but I realized how that would have looked if she hadn’t,” Carol explains.
At The Well, Carol sees individuals living with serious mental illnesses provide similar close-knit support for each other. “They’re a family within themselves. They’ve come together and found that comfort, found a place of safety,” she says. Carol has watched members try to help one another when someone is upset, and has witnessed them come together when a member passes away. “They’re willing to give, and offer what they have to each other.”
Like many who volunteer at The Well, Carol and Murray began serving lunch to members six years ago with the expectation that they would give of themselves. But, it wasn’t long before they realized that members of The Well gave to them too. “The first time we went, we were very moved by the members,” Carol recalls. “It was very humbling. … They’re just so genuine. Their hearts are so welcoming. … Even at their lowest, they keep their sense of humor; they don’t let challenges get them down. They appreciate the help they’ve been given.”
Volunteering at The Well Community is a family affair for the Arbuckles. Each of Carol’s four grown children helps in some way, and her grandchildren, who’ve tagged along from beginning, still love to join in during the summer when they’re not in school. “We feel like we’re teaching them that there are people out there who struggle, but they’re people just like us,” explains Carol. “That’s been a neat gift to our family.”
Another gift has been experiencing the kindness of those at The Well, who frequently ask about members of Carol’s family when they aren’t present. When the Arbuckles returned to The Well after missing a month due to illness, Carol was touched by a member who expressed her concern and told Carol she’d been praying for them.
Seeing members of The Well through the same eyes as family has led the Arbuckles to serve them like family. “I don’t ever forget: It could be me or one of my family members,” Carol says. “Our hearts should care for them just as we do for other people. … They’re as important as any of us.”
In addition to preparing and serving the midday meal, Carol and her family send members home with goodie bags filled with a few pieces of fruit, snacks and other food items like instant oatmeal packets. When temperatures soar in the summer, she provides sports drinks and bottles of water; when the weather turns cold she brings blankets and sleeping bags. She says she’s constantly on the lookout for good deals on shoes and clothing to help meet members’ needs. “I try to stay in touch with the needs of the people. … I worry about some of them, that they’re getting their needs met.”
The Arbuckles also look for ways to help make holidays a little brighter for members of The Well. At Christmas, the entire family chips in to fill tote bags for members with both fun items and necessities, such as first aid kits and personal care products. “We try to bring a little bit of joy and celebration into their lives.”
Carol explains that many times, those who deal with mental health challenges are a forgotten group of people, one that others often ignore because they see people with brain disorders as scary and are uncomfortable around them. “Many are so intelligent,” says Carol, “but when they can’t operate in our systems they’re often shoved aside.” She emphasizes that society as a whole needs to care about those who are struggling with mental illness. “We need to reach out and do better.”
Carol encourages those who are considering serving at The Well Community, “Step out of your comfort zone. You will grow tremendously as a person from it.” She stresses the importance of looking past members’ mental health challenges. “They have so much to give. We have to see beyond the stigma we place on them. … When we’re serving them, we’re serving God.”
The Well Community is always looking for volunteers to serve in various ways. Think you might be interested? Don’t hesitate to call or email! We would love to answer your questions and find the best place for you to use your unique gifts. Contact us.
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