Kid magnet. Careful driver. Volunteer chaplain to people experiencing mental illness. Quietly inspiring leader. No wonder the multifaceted Merv Wunderlich is called “Superman” by Laura Ipock Powell, BRC Director of Volunteer Services.
“I do things other people cannot,” Merv explains. And thereby he makes a significant difference.
One of his roles at BRC is to drive the van to transport residents who don’t drive (or prefer not to) to medical appointments or to beauty appointments at BRC’s own salon, Belles & Beaus. He has also served as vice president of the Bridgewater Village Residents Association.
With a deep love of children, which is clearly reciprocated, he is a dedicated volunteer with Rotary’s reading program.
In addition, he is one of the reasons that BRC’s relationship with the local elementary school, John Wayland Elementary School, is thriving.
Early on Thursday mornings, he spends time reading with first graders there. He also gathers fellow BRC residents and transports them to the school for the Lunch Buddies program.
“The children love him!” comments Laura. “He and Doris McDaniel, also a Village resident, are kid magnets. His dedication has helped to deepen our partnership with the school.”
Merv has also volunteered with Our Community Place in Harrisonburg, a charity that provides a place of rest for people who are homeless, and he has done volunteer chaplaincy work at Western State Hospital, a state psychiatric hospital in nearby Staunton that moved to a new state-of-the-art building in 2013.
“The new place is something they should be very proud of. There are so many therapists and lots of practicum students from UVA and JMU. It was interesting work.”
When the time came, Merv knew from direct experience what he was looking for in a retirement community. He had been chaplain at Cross Keys Village, a Brethren retirement community in Pennsylvania, and became acquainted with BRC while his daughter was a student at Bridgewater College.
“No one ever said to me that they came to a retirement community too soon,” he says of moving to BRC in 2017. “I thought the whole campus was beautiful. I also liked the idea of the college town.”
Life has been anything but idle since then. And our entire community is all the richer for Merv’s many and varied contributions.