Program matches seniors with those in need

Editor’s Note: This is the next in a series of articles about the member agencies of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.

PARKERSBURG – The Senior Companion Program links volunteer seniors with individuals in the community who may be at risk of losing their independence, helping them find friendship and assistance while still living in their own homes.

The federally funded program, which is hosted by the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council, receives $5,000 from the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley annually.

Rod Poling, project director, said the United Way funds go to help offset travel expenses and provide recognition for the senior companion volunteers.

Through the program, volunteers 55 and older who are determined to be income-eligible under federal guidelines provide light housekeeping and companionship for individuals, or provide respite for caregivers. The volunteers have a background check, must meet federal income guidelines, and serve a minimum of 15 hours weekly. They are provided with 40 hours of orientation training and additional in-service education monthly. They receive a tax-exempt stipend for their services to program participants who are seniors or individuals 18 and older with disabilities.

The program is headquartered in the MOVRC and currently has 103 participating in the program. The program covers 21 counties.

Sharon Ball, 65, said she’s been involved with the Senior Companion Program for about five years.

“I currently have three clients, ages 67, 57 and 65. My oldest was 104, I was with her for about six months. I also had a lady who was 103 years old, I was with her for three years. If they need laundry done, or help with fixing some meals, I help them with paperwork if they need it, or we just read, or sit and talk,” she said.

“This program gives me a purpose, it eliminates some of my own loneliness, it helps me financially and really makes you feel like you are worthy, like you are needed. It keeps you busy so you’re not just sitting at home doing nothing, it keeps you from getting depressed,” she said.

Ball said the companions in the program appreciate her efforts, and look forward to her visits.

“Our volunteers can do anything from just sitting and visiting with a person, to light housekeeping, cooking, or taking someone to the grocery store or pharmacy,” Poling said.

The program also provides family members with peace of mind, knowing someone is checking in on their loved one.

For the current program year, to date, the program has provided 35,000 independent living hours, 20,000 respite care hours, and 15,000 hours for veterans’ support.