AmeriCorps Seniors is seeking volunteers willing to serve the Senior Companion program in northeast Oklahoma.
The Senior Companion program allows for people aged 55 and older, particularly those with limited incomes, to participate in volunteer service to help the community.
Senior Companion volunteers provide supportive, individualized services to help older adults with special needs maintain their dignity and independence. Volunteers serve as a friend and companion to older neighbors to make sure they can live in their own homes as long as possible, remain independent, and also help provide some rest to caregivers.
Longtime Rogers County volunteer Quana Brown signed up to serve the Senior Companion program 11 years ago. She was looking for something to keep her occupied after retirement, and did not realize what a “blessing” the program would become.
“Sometime you’re the only other person they see, sometimes their caregiver needs a break, or their children don’t live close,” Brown says. “Whatever the reason, they need someone. I’m thankful to be that someone, to do chores, run errands, take them on drives, play cards, watch TV, help them in the garden – whatever it is. I’ve helped one lady 10 years — she is my friend. Been with her through the death of a child and leaving her home, and soon I will be with her through her last big event. It has been a pleasure.”
Ottawa County’s Tommy Blizzard is another longtime Senior Companion volunteer. Blizzard started volunteering 11 years ago at the encouragement of a friend, who felt he needed “something to do” after he retired.
“The first gentleman I had (as a client) was a sweet old man, about 73 years old … he and I hit it off right off the bat,” Blizzard says. “I enjoy it because I really enjoy taking the people out, if they want to go out to eat, or go to the store … you just do the best you can with your client, whatever they want to do, playing games or even if they need help with housework or something like that. Just pamper them all day long or whatever time you have.”
Blizzard says his current trio of clients are what keep him going as a volunteer.
“They are really, really nice … they are in their 70s and 80s, and I really enjoy going to visit with them,” he says. “Some days, I can’t hardly wait to get out of the house to go do that.”
Senior Companion volunteer Amy Oliver was inspired to volunteer in Rogers County after watching the service of her older sister and brother-in-law.
“They were both involved in the Patriot Guard for a number of years — making sure no veteran was buried without someone standing watch for them until ‘Taps’ was played and their duty was done,” Oliver says.
After the death of both her brother-in-law and elder sister earlier this year, Oliver watched as the Patriot Guard showed up. The support inspired her service to the Senior Companion program.
“It is an honor to help out our seniors because they may not have anyone else in their life and I want them to know that they are not forgotten,” Oliver says.
Janea Hogan, who oversees the program in Craig, Ottawa and Rogers counties, is grateful for the work of Brown, Blizzard, Oliver and other volunteers – and could use a few more like them.
“We are always looking for more volunteers,” Hogan says. “This is a great opportunity for seniors to stay active and involved in their community.”
Senior Companions volunteers serve between 15 and 40 hours a week in the following capacities: assisting with daily living tasks playing games with the client; going for walks; encouraging clients to participate in social activities; light grocery shopping; accompanying clients to doctor appointments; and alerting family members about changes in the client in order to address potential problems.
Companions must be age 55 or older, and meet established income eligibility guidelines. Volunteers must pass a background check and are eligible to receive a modest stipend for their service, if they meet income eligibility requirements. Other benefits include training, insurance and travel reimbursement.
For more information, contact Janea Hogan at 918-256-7531.
AmeriCorps, the federal agency for volunteering and national service, provides opportunities for Americans to serve their country domestically, address the nation’s most pressing challenges, improve lives and communities, and strengthen civic engagement. Each year, the agency invests more than $800 million in grants for local nonprofit, community, tribal and state organizations; places more than 250,000 AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers in intensive service roles; and empowers millions more to serve as long-term, short-term or one-time volunteers. Learn more at AmeriCorps.gov.