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Getting to know the MOVRC: Senior Companion Program

The Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Council has been in Parkersburg since 1971. Created by an act of the West Virginia Legislature, MOVRC promotes, advances and improves the community and economic well-being of the region. It has multiple programs focusing on community development, workforce, transportation, small business financing, business incubators and senior volunteer programs. Today we would like to introduce you to Becky Edwards with the MOVRC Retired Senior Volunteer Program.

The Senior Companion Program is a volunteer program that helps keep people in their own homes that are at risk of losing their independence. Senior Companions provide 15-40 hours per week visiting older adults, most who live alone and would like to have someone share part of their day.

One of the hardest things to have to do as we face getting older is the thought of losing our independence because we can no longer take care of ourselves and our surroundings. The days can be long and lonely, especially for those who live alone. Studies show that loneliness can result in depression, anxiety and make certain conditions worse. Our children work or no longer live close and live busy lives. Senior Companion Volunteers can provide assistance with light housekeeping, transportation, meal preparation and most of all companionship.

The biggest benefit of being a Senior Companion is that it improves the quality of life of seniors. Companionship goes beyond just caregiving and is a symbolic relationship that enables seniors to thrive. On a social level having friends and companions enables people to talk about challenges, express grief, and to find resources to solve problems. On a personal level, a Senior Companion is someone that the senior not only looks forward to visiting with and doing things with, but also is someone on which they can rely. Older people worry about going to the grocery store or transportation to and from doctor appointments. Senior Companions help to remove the worry and burden, so that seniors can focus on living a quality life.

The Senior Companion Volunteers are 55 years or older, meet federal income guidelines, pass a physical, be fingerprinted, and pass Federal and State background checks. The volunteers receive a stipend of $2.65 per hour for their volunteer service and mileage reimbursement. The stipend is tax free and does not affect any benefits that volunteers may receive.

Currently, volunteers are providing service in Barbour, Berkeley, Braxton, Brooke, Cabell, Kanawha, Lewis, Marion, McDowell, Mercer, Monongalia, Raleigh, Randolph, Ritchie, Roane, Taylor, Tucker, Upshur, Webster and Wood Counties.

A small example of how the program is making a huge difference in Roane County. A Senior Companion Volunteer in Roane County visits with her client weekly. Before she became part of the program, weeks could go by without any outside contact as she lives in an isolated area of the county and does not have a vehicle. These weekly visits help to fill the void that is sometimes created in today’s fast paced world. Both volunteer and client enjoy the companionship and socialization the Senior Companion Program allows. They both gain something priceless from the visits: a purpose.

Funding for this program is provided through the Federal government via the Corporation for National and Community Service and requires a local matching component. Contributions from local charities, county commissions, private foundations and general public fundraisers are used to meet the required matching funds.

If you are interested in volunteering through this program, please call Becky at 304-422-4993 ext.107.

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Carol Jackson, CPA, MBA, PCED, is executive director of the Mid Ohio Valley Regional Council.

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