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Fruehauf named THCA volunteer of the year

Posted on Sunday, September 16, 2018 at 9:24 am

By Elena Cawley The Tullahoma News

For 18 years, Eric Fruehauf (left) has organized and hosted an auction game for the residents of the Life Care Center of Tullahoma. Pictured here with resident Steve Jones, Fruehauf said that his auctions have led to developing friendships with the residents. For his efforts, he recently received the Tennessee Health Care Association’s 2018 Individual Volunteer Award.

For 18 years, Eric Fruehauf of Lynchburg has organized and hosted an auction game at the Life Care Center of Tullahoma with the goal to brighten the days of the center’s residents. He has succeeded. The auction, held every first Friday of the month, is now one of the most popular events at the center. To Life Care residents and patients, Fruehauf is not just an auctioneer; he has become a friend and someone they look forward to seeing. For his efforts at the Life Care Center, Fruehauf recently received the Tennessee Health Care Association’s 2018 Individual Volunteer Award. The award, presented annually, is given to an individual who exemplifies the spirit of nursing home volunteerism and spends personal time to tend to the needs of nursing home patients. Fruehauf accepted the award Aug. 17 at a special luncheon during THCA’s Convention and Trade Show in Nashville. “My wife, Wendy, and I have been volunteering at the Life Care Center for a number of years,” Fruehauf said. “I started out as an apprentice auctioneer and needed a place to practice.” Though he’s now in the auction and real estate business, Fruehauf started his career working in home health. “So I was familiar with working with people in need,” he said, “and I thought the center would be a great place to practice (auctioneering).” Eighteen years ago, Fruehauf shared his idea with Glenda Stephens, activities director at Life Care Center, and she wanted to give it a try. “It turned out to be a very popular activity for the residents,” Fruehauf said. “It gets very heated during the bidding process. “Sometimes they get upset if they don’t get a particular item they wanted because they get outbid or don’t have enough money left, but it’s all in good fun. We have a good time.” Fruehauf also provides most of the items up for auction during the event. “We buy those at auctions we have,” Fruehauf said. “Or Glenda goes out to yard sales. One of my best friends from Switzerland, Dan Buholzer, travels throughout the world and wherever he goes, he picks up trinkets and souvenirs and brings them back.” Fruehauf said Buholzer schedules his trips to the U.S. around the first Friday of the month. “He comes to the auction, brings the trinkets and explains where he got them and what it was like in these places,” Fruehauf said. Not only has Fruehauf offered his time to the Life Care Center by hosting the auction game, but he has also helped recruit new volunteers to the facility. Volunteering at the center and developing relationships with the residents, he said, has been very rewarding for him. “Being in the sales business is an emotional upand-down roller coaster,” he said. “Sometimes there are good weeks and sometimes there are bad weeks. But going to the nursing home seems to keep everything in perspective.” “It feels good” to see the smiles on the residents’ faces, he said. “Because I don’t work there, I can talk to them a little bit differently – I give them a hard time and they give me a hard time,” Fruehauf said. “I pay attention to them and I talk to them like everything is OK in the world.” Stephens, who nominated Fruehauf for the THCA award, said the auction is always exciting. “The residents love it,” she said. “That’s their favorite event. They enjoy the chant and Eric cuts up with them. Eric is very involved with the patients.” Steve Jones, one of the center’s residents, said he always looks forward to the auction. “I have been at Life Care Center for four years,” Jones said. “I enjoy the auction. Eric is a good man.”