LIFEWAVES: Dotson nails down the secret to volunteering

Every Friday Maggie Dotson holds court at High Point Village.

She can be found in a corner of the dining area, surrounded by lovely ladies, filing their nails, helping them select the perfect polish and sharing stories about grandchildren and the day’s events.

“They’re all my friends and buddies,” said Dotson, who for the past 13 years has been arriving at the Enumclaw assisted living facility to paint nails.

It started when Dotson accompanied a friend to pretty up the residents’ hands. When that friend had to leave, Dotson took over the gig.

It was also Dotson’s own connection with the simple gesture of kindness that drew her to High Point.

It was around 1999, when Dotson was watching as her mother battled cancer, a cousin painted her mother’s nails.

“Mom would be in and out of a coma and when she’d wake up she’d look at her nails,” Dotson said. “It meant everything to her to have her nails done.”

April is national volunteer month. High Point Village’s Christine Eide said Dotson is one of about 20 volunteers who come through High Point’s doors each week.

According to statistics from the Corporation for National and Community Service on the AARP website, from 2007 to 2009, 34.2 percent of baby boomers in Washington state volunteer, one of the highest rates in the country.

Dotson also recalls one of the High Point ladies whose career was a nurse, which meant she couldn’t paint her nails. At High Point, she’d have her nails painted red all the time.

“The family made sure she was buried with red nail polish on,” Dotson said.

“Sometimes you don’t realize how much it means to have your nails done.”

Red is a living-on-the-edge color for most of the women. Typically, the color of choice is any shade of pink. Holiday-appropriate colors like orange polish for Halloween and red at Christmas, during the proper season, are also popular.

Dotson can sit in her make-shift salon for a couple of hours each Friday.

She started with seven Friday and they kept coming – as one moved out of a chair to wait for their freshly-painted nails to dry, another took the seat and others moved closer. Then it was an air kiss and an “I love you” and on to the next pair of hands.

“I love to have Maggie do them,” said Virginia Hand, who decided to just have hers filed Friday, no polish. “She does a good job.”

Dotson’s not licensed, so she doesn’t clip, just filing and painting.

“And a lot of laughing and loving,” Eide said.

It’s not just the lady folk getting their nails done.

Ed Boyles wheels up his chair on a regular basis.

“There’s a lot of guys who get their nails filed back,” Dotson said. “So it’s not just the women.”