Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Kim Hone-McMahan: Be a guardian and friend to the lonely through volunteer program

Margie Newell & Lynn Spencer

By Kim Hone-McMahan 

They just may be the loneliest of the lonely in our community. They have no family or friends, or at least none who can care for them. They are unable to make important decisions for themselves. They are indigent. And they live in nursing homes where no one comes to visit.

They are adults who are wards of the Summit County Probate Court.

Concerned about these folks, Judge Elinore Marsh Stormer created the Volunteer Guardian Program, which pairs caring souls with those in need.

Imagine being alone. Maybe you have a physical or mental health illness and no one in your life who steps up to help you. Perhaps you’ve had a stroke or are someone who is mentally challenged. There are many scenarios, and the need for guardians is equally great.

“It’s a guardian’s job to make sure that a person is getting the care that they need,” explained Gizelle Jones, executive director of Jewish Family Service, which was selected to implement the program that began last year. “Nursing homes offer a variety of challenges so if you are not in decent mental health and unable to advocate for yourself … you need someone to help you.”

That’s where you come in. If you have been looking for a volunteer opportunity to change someone’s life in a significant way, this may be for you.

During a recent visit to Seasons Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Stow, guardians Lynn Spencer of Munroe Falls and Jay Regallis of Wadsworth were visiting their new friends.

Jay, whose paying job is in sales and marketing for Servpro and who has volunteered helping the elderly in other ways, broke out in song. Odie Zickefoose, 56, who lives at the home, enjoys reminiscing about the old days, particularly chatting about songs from the ’60s and ’70s.

“And it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire, the ring of fire,” Jay sang, to Odie’s delight.

A few feet away, resident Margie Newell, 55, was chatting with Lynn, who visits her about once a week. Sometimes they go to the park or the fair. Margie has even met Lynn’s family.

“I would recommend it for people who want to volunteer. It is a blessing spending time with Margie,” said Lynn, the retired director of a nonprofit organization that helped victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Virgin Islands. “It works both ways — she gets something from me being here and I get something. We are companions for each other and share experiences together.”

As Lynn spoke, Margie grinned, adding, “I adopted her as my mom.”

Jennifer Mesko-Kimmich is program director of volunteers. She makes certain that the men and women who donate their time receive any help needed to do the best jobs for their wards, who are thrilled to receive visits from their guardians.

More people like Lynn and Jay will be needed.

“As our population is aging, we have people who are having physical problems … or the deterioration that comes with age,” explained Stormer. “The need grows every year. Most of the time, we can find a family member who is willing to take on the responsibility. But sometimes we have family members who are not appropriate or unable to care. And that’s why we turn to volunteers.

“We welcome anyone who has the heart to do this,” she added. “The training is available; they don’t have to have any prior experience.”

Volunteers must be 21 or older, have their own transportation and visit their ward once a month. A background check is done and volunteers must complete three hours of court-mandated training. That’s not much to change someone’s life.

If you’ve been thinking of volunteering, please consider this opportunity to help the loneliest of the lonely.

For more information, call 330-867-3388.

Full Article & Source:
Kim Hone-McMahan: Be a guardian and friend to the lonely through volunteer program

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Volunteers are sorely needed!