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 provides individuals 55 years of age or older with meaningful volunteer opportunities in their community.
Funded in part by federal dollars, United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley, Sisters of St. Joseph Charitable Fund and other local grants, the Senior Companion Program is headquartered in the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council offices on Market Street.
The Wood County Senior Center is one of the volunteer sites for the Senior Companion Program. (Photo by Natalee Seely)
The program recruits seniors to act as companions for other senior citizens, as well as individuals 18 years or older with disabilities.
"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," said Rod Poling, program director. "Our volunteers find it very rewarding. It builds their self-esteem and gets them involved in their community."
Volunteers must qualify by meeting several guidelines. Volunteers must earn no more than $21,000 a year and be able to volunteer at least 15 hours a week. They must also undergo a physical as well as background checks and fingerprinting.
Currently, the program has around 45 volunteers spread over 10 counties, which include Wood, Monongalia, Preston, Taylor, Harrison, Doddridge, Ritchie, Pleasants, Brooke and McDowell. In Wood County alone, there is a wait list of around 50 people who requested volunteer services.
Volunteers can receive a small stipend of $2.65 an hour as reimbursement for their volunteer activities, and they also receive mileage reimbursement for travel costs from their home to a volunteer site.
To fulfill monthly in-service training requirements, the program is taking a more hands-on approach, said Poling.
"Rather than sit inside and watch training videos, we've been going out into the community to do different projects," he said.
Volunteers have wrapped Easter baskets for inmates of St. Marys Correctional Center, helped set up for the annual FaithLink fundraiser and participated in craft classes at the Wood County Senior Center, which is a popular volunteer site for the Senior Companion Program.
Volunteer applications can be picked up at the Wood County Senior Center at 914 Market St. or the offices of the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council at 531 Market St. in Parkersburg.