The Center for Volunteer Caregiving

Activate Good is encouraging the public to volunteer at area nonprofits such as the Cary-based Center for Volunteer Caregiving.

In 2012, Richard Bell suffered his second heart attack and damage to the part of his brain that creates new memory.

He was depressed and lonely, and his worried daughter, Amy, was solely responsible for his care — until she called The Center for Volunteer Caregiving.

The nonprofit, formed in 1992 as an outreach of local churches, now serves as a link between formal and informal service providers to help Wake County seniors and adults with disabilities maintain at-home independence.

That’s thanks to trained volunteers in three core programs: Transportation, Caregiver Support and In-Home Connections.

“The center took time to make sure Dad’s volunteer, Ken Hickson, was a good fit. He’s kind, competent and caring,” Bell said. “He takes Dad out once a week, to the movies or the train station, as my father loves trains.

“Ken provides Dad with male camaraderie and a chance to leave the house, which keeps his dignity intact and makes him much less irritated. I’ve reconnected with friends and have a support system that helps maintain my mental health, which makes me a better caregiver. I feel a lot less stressed.”

“The joy you get, and give, is priceless,” says volunteer Renee Hammel of Cary, right. She takes Miriam Delgado, who is legally blind, to the grocery store, doctor appointments and to visits with friends.

“Socialization is linked to physical and mental health benefits for the care receiver and for the volunteer,” said center Executive Director Lynn Templeton. “We aren’t case managers, but we get involved and connect resources.”

Renee Hammel of Cary has served as a center volunteer since 2009, helping 20 care receivers including Miriam Delgado, who is legally blind.  

“This allows the elderly to enjoy life in their own environment rather than going to a facility,” Hammel said. “I take Miriam to the grocery store, doctor appointments and bank. We enjoy dining together for lunch, and I take her to visit a friend who’s in a rehabilitation center. The two of them sing and exchange stories. Most recently, I helped Miriam connect with the Cary Lions Club. She was very appreciative.

“The joy you get, and give, as a volunteer is priceless.”

Center services are prioritized to people age 60 or older, or ages 18 to 60 with chronic health issues or disabilities, based on financial and social need, lack of other resources, and risk of institutional placement.

The center performs national background checks on volunteers and requires orientation, held online or in group session.

“The needs are growing,” said transportation coordinator Julie Keely; volunteers drove 36,000 miles last year, 50 percent more than the year before. Keely notes a particular need for volunteers in outlying areas lacking public transportation.

For families like the Bells, coordinator Lou Paules says the Caregiver Support program offers respite for primary caregivers.

“We also offer training and workshops across the county on caring for those with dementia,” Paules said. “Our aim is to educate caregivers and volunteers on appropriate activities that tap into the remaining strengths of the care receiver.”  

In-Home Connections matches volunteers with homebound adults for calls, visits, light housekeeping or yard work.

“Social isolation is a huge issue,” said Susan Meador, program manager. “We match these volunteers carefully, based on shared interests, so relationships can develop in friendly visits a couple of times a month. Or volunteers can make ‘reassurance calls’ by phone for a few minutes each day.”

Award-Winning Center
It’s been a banner year for the center, as it earned the 2013 GSK IMPACT Award from GlaxoSmithKline, recognizing outstanding contributions to the health of the local community, and the Beverly Foundation’s STAR Award for contributions to volunteer senior transportation.

The funding that comes with the awards “bumps us out of being a little grassroots organization, to having more of an impact,” Templeton said. The center is also eligible for United Way partner status come January.

Support also comes from state and federal grants, the Town of Cary, faith community, corporate and individual contributors, and events like the Red Carpet Rendezvous, held each February.

“We are making a difference in people’s lives,” Keely said. “There’s tremendous need, and such appreciation when that need is filled.”

“There are also able-bodied, big-hearted people in our community,” added Paules, “and we’re the connector.”

The Center for Volunteer Caregiving
(919) 460-0567

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