Staying Put gets grant to boost volunteer programs
Published 9:27 am, Wednesday, July 15, 2015
Staying Put in New Canaan, which helps more than 300 seniors live safely in their homes and in town, recently received a $6,000 grant from the New Canaan Community Foundation to enhance its volunteer efforts.
The agency relies on a dedicated cadre of more than 150 volunteers of all ages. While the most frequent volunteer request is for rides to medical appointments and social activities, there are a range of other opportunities for volunteers.
Time commitments are flexible, as some volunteers take on weekly assignments, others bi-monthly, seasonally or on an occasional “as needed” basis.
The grant supports funding supports two initiatives: A “Care Connections” network, matching volunteers with members who can benefit from an occasional call or visit, and; “Staying Put Angels,” a corps of volunteers who do errands, minor household tasks, and technical support on short notice.
“Care Connections volunteers help us reach out to members we care about but rarely hear from,” Executive Director Barb Achenbaum said. “The Angels do the last-minute activities that typically fall to the staff, freeing up our time to keep the organization running smoothly and address the needs of our broader membership.”
Community Foundation Executive Director Cynthia Gorey said, “This grant demonstrates our commitment to meeting the needs of our local elderly, and the program reflects what we call the spirit of New Canaan, the amazing generosity of our residents with respect to giving their time as volunteers to take care of our community.”
The Care Connections network is an outgrowth of a former program, RUOK (“Are you OK?”) established by the Woman’s Club of New Canaan. Today 35 Staying Put volunteers are keeping in touch by phone or visiting 45 Staying Put members who live alone. Volunteer Anne Kniffin has been calling a Staying Put member every morning for the past five years, “just to make sure she is OK”. She says, the member is worried, not for herself, but for her dogs — what would happen to them if she did not feed them and let them outside. Other volunteers make personal visits to homebound seniors, for whom it may be their only community contact.
The Staying Put Angels are a group of 40 volunteers who receive a group email when a request comes in from a member — to pick up items from the grocery store or pharmacy, perform a home maintenance task such as changing a lightbulb or putting ink in a printer. “Usually one of Angels responds within an hour,” Achenbaum.said “It’s reassuring to our members to know that our volunteers are there for them, even on short notice.”
Molly DePatie has been volunteering to do weekly grocery shopping for a couple of Staying Put members. Some recipients are homebound due to a temporary illness or recovering from surgery, while others may have mobility issues that make shopping difficult. “It’s gratifying to be able to help these people because they always express their appreciation so wholeheartedly,” DePatie said.
Another key function staffed by volunteers is office help, including answering the telephone and recording requests for rides or other assistance, as well as welcoming Staying Put members who drop by the office to chat.
Volunteer Tanis Erdmann — a former editor of Readers Digest — said, “I love to work in the office; it keeps my brain active and there’s a lot of camaraderie. You get to know all the different members, and you see in action all the different aspects of Staying Put.”
Those interested in volunteer opportunities or seeking more information may call Staying Put at 203-966-7762.