When you meet Angela DiMeglio, a volunteer with the Senior Companion program, and her client, Elaine Jakoski, it is obvious how the relationship benefits each of them. They truly enjoy each otherâ€™s company.
DiMeglio has been a volunteer with the program run by Lutheran Community Services Northwest for a little over a year. She has three clients and sees each of them for four to five hours a week.
Her relationship with Jakoski involves errands such as driving her to doctor appointments and shopping, and being there for lots of visiting.
Senior Companion is a federally funded program of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), said program director Julie Kerrigan.
â€œWe are one of only four Senior Companion Programs in the Washington and Lutheran Community Services Northwest (LCSNW) has been offering the program since 1996,â€ said Kerrigan. It is a national volunteer program whose goal is to recruit low-income seniors to serve a frail or isolated senior or person with a disability in a meaningful one-on-one relationship, she explained.
â€œOur hope is to keep people living independently in their own homes as long as possible. We train senior volunteers to provide services such as transportation and grocery shopping. I call them professional friends,â€ said Kerrigan.
Volunteers donâ€™t cook, clean or dispense medication. Many take their clients to a movie or a senior center.
â€œPeople really enjoy their volunteers, and the volunteers look forward to their visitsâ€ because it gives them an opportunity to get out of the house and have a purpose, Kerrigan said.
The program matches clients with volunteers to ensure a good fit for both. Volunteers go through 40 hours of extensive training, including guest speakers, job-shadowing and role-playing. Each volunteer also submits to several background checks.
Volunteers receive a small stipend and mileage reimbursement for their service.
DiMeglio said she gets as much out of visiting with her clients as she gives them.
â€œWe understand what it is like to need someone, and I am fortunate to have three women as clients. Weâ€™ve developed a lot of trust, and we laugh a lot,â€ she said, adding that her volunteer work offers her another opportunity to socialize. Sometimes she bakes with her clients and takes them to thrift shops or to the.
Jakoski suffers from Huntingdonâ€™s Disease and is very grateful for the companionship and friendship that DiMeglio offers.
DiMeglio was headed out of town for a few days recently, and Jakoski said she would miss her.
â€œWe will have to have some make up visits when she returns,â€ she said.
Joan Cronk, who wrote this article, is a freelance writer from Puyallup.