Special programs for special people: Grant County’s Senior Companion Program

From March 24, 1994: Inez Woodley (right) visits Merle Cooley and "bird" each week to bring them news, see if she needs any errands run and to check on her welfare. Inez has been a volunteer in the Senior Companion Program for almost three years and serves others in the program. The program serves a variety of needs ranging from visiting each week to shopping and other errands. The program is part of a growing volunteer effort in Grant County that includes a foster grandparent program at the Humbolt Elementary School, adult literacy tutoring and a work experience program.

50 years ago

Church dedication set

A public dedication ceremony will be held Sunday for the John Day First Baptist Church sanctuary addition.

Rev. Allen Swires, new pastor of the church, and Bill Smith, mayor of John Day, will be the speakers at the ceremony, which begins at 11 a.m.

Following the dedication program, the public is invited to attend an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

The new sanctuary seats 256 persons as compared to 130 for the previous sanctuary, which will be converted into a youth fellowship area and kitchen. The building addition and remodeling project began late last summer.

Arvy Construction Co. of John Day handled the exterior building program while the interior was finished by Errol Montague and Errol Wilde, both of John Day.

Ed Farr, a member of the church and a Malheur National Forest engineer, designed the building.

Farr is also chairman of the church’s building committee. Members of the committee are Bob Johnson, Archie Gubser, Charles Oliver, Ron Bissonnett, T.J. Walker, Ed Binschus, Pete Hancock and Ray Lang.

The John Day church is affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship.

25 years ago

Special programs for special people: Grant County’s Senior Companion Program

Bonnie Whited and Inez Woodley exemplify the spirit of volunteerism in Grant County. Both work in the Senior Companion Program and help make life easier for 20 disabled or homebound seniors in the Prairie City, Canyon City, John Day and Mt. Vernon areas.

The Senior Companion Program is one of a handful of expanding community volunteer programs coordinated by Debi Hueckman, Grant County’s Volunteer Program Manager.

Among the other programs offered is the foster grandparents program that enables two volunteers to spend time with students at the Humbolt Elementary School. Also offered is an adult literacy and tutoring program and a work experience program allowing individuals from the community to volunteer to work in public agencies as a means of gaining unpaid work experience.

One of the most important services offered by the volunteer program, Hueckman said, is an all volunteer transportation network that helps people get to out of county doctor’s appointments and meets other needs.

“I have a good group of people,” said Bonnie, who last week was visiting with Joan Metlock at the Meadowbrook Apartments in John Day.

Bonnie has been involved in the Senior Companion Program for about three years. After working at Len’s Drug, Bonnie was called and recruited for the position by the county’s office of Adult and Family Services.

Bonnie said she had to decline the offer at the time because of the declining health of her mother, but after her mother entered a nursing home, she decided to get involved in the program, which is covered by federal funding that pays volunteers $2.45 an hour for up to 20 hours a week.

Joan was living in Portland when her husband passed away last May. She had lived here before and had family and friends in the area, and after the death of her husband, Joan knew she wanted to return to John Day.

She said it took about six months for her to finalize her affairs in Portland and sell her mobile home, and it took about the same length of time for the apartment to open up. The rest fell into place.

The Senior Companion Program offers a variety of services including helping clients with personal care such as feeding, bathing, dressing and grooming. They can also help them with walking or getting out of the bed or bathroom; help them with physical therapy and monitoring medication; accompanying them to a doctor’s appointment; providing grief support; or helping them with reality orientation and awareness.

Hueckman said a primary goal of the program is to prevent or delay the institutionalization of homebound adults. The program better serves clients by enabling them to remain in their home with familiar surroundings and personal items and reduces taxpayer expense by keeping clients out of a nursing home or other institutionalized care.

Other goals are to assist in the discharge of adults from residential health care facilities to afford them a greater degree of independent living, and to provide care in households in which the burden of care rests with other household members unable to offer the level of support needed by the client. The Senior Companion Program also assists with terminally ill clients.

With Bonnie and Inez, their primary focus among their clients is visiting and helping with errands, shopping and other chores.

“It’s a life saver,” Joan said. “I just don’t know that I could do the errands Bonnie does.”

Among Inez’ clients in Prairie City is Merle Cooley, who is both hearing and sight impaired. Unable to watch television, listen to the radio or read, Inez and other friends provide Merle with an essential link to what is happening within the community and elsewhere.

“It means a lot to me, these visits,” Merle said. Other family members stop in regularly to check on her welfare, and she enjoys the companionship of “bird”, a small parrot-like green bird she sometimes removes from a cage and talks with.

The Senior Companion Program serves more than it’s clients, however. Inez, who will mark her three-year anniversary in the program this September, was contacted by Linda Lynch, former program manager, about joining the program.

Inez said she had just lost a close girlfriend of hers whom she had known for 30 years, and she was experiencing some deep depression over her loss. Joining the Senior Companion Program has helped her as well as her clients.

“She can take all the blame for that,” she said of Lynch getting her involved in the program. Like Bonnie, Inez serves about nine other people in the program in addition to Merle.

And like Bonnie, most of her focus is on visiting with clients, bringing them up to date on news and generally just being a friends and listener.

She also spends time running errands for clients – whatever needs doing – whether its taking someone to a doctor’s appointment, running to the post office or doing the grocery shopping. Because one of Inez’ clients will soon have hip replacement surgery, she will also take care of her dog while her client is unable to care for the pet.

“It’s brought me out of the dumps,” Inez said of the Senior Companion Program and the depression she felt following the loss of her lifetime friend. And like Bonnie, Inez feels she has a good group of clients to work with.

Bonnie and Inez schedule their visits throughout the week and around the special needs of each client. “Well,” Bonnie said, “they all seem glad to see me.”

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