Senior Companion volunteers honored
HARRIS — Senior Companion volunteers were celebrated on the 36th birthday of the program at the Island Convention Center at the Island Resort and Casino Wednesday. All 47 volunteers from Delta, Menominee and Schoolcraft Counties received recognition for their part in contributing to 46,959 hours of volunteer service.
Included in the program was the presentation of the Gilbert Sablack Award.
“Gill Sablack was a true supporter and had a big heart,” said Senior Companion Director Connie Maule. “He was very special to our program and involved … a true believer in Community Action overall and knew what our purpose was and that we did make a difference.”
Approximately seven years ago, Maule and Senior Companion Supervisor Linda Paulin decided to honor Sablack by presenting an exceptional volunteer an award in his name. Letters go to each site where volunteers donate their time, and the award is decided by the communities. This year, a volunteer from each county was given the award. According to Maule, that doesn’t happen every year. The recipients of the Gilbert Sablack Award were Bill Castle of Delta County, Linda Kraniak of Menominee County, and Judy Cousino of Schoolcraft County. Sablack’s widow, Rosemary, handed the award to the three winners.
Every volunteer was acknowledged by receiving a certificate and a memento corresponding to the amount of years donated — all the way from new Senior Companions to Al Marohnic, a 23-year Senior Companion volunteer.
“Al has been the companion to the same lady for 22 years,” said Maule. “He has done an awesome job. If not for Al, she would be in a nursing home.”
New volunteers received a ribbon, one- through three-year volunteers received a pin, four-year volunteers received an engraved keychain, and five-year volunteers received an engraved plaque.
“After five years of volunteering, they receive a plaque that is engraved,” Maule said. “Every year after the fifth year, they receive a ‘plate,’ to hang on their five year plaque.”
Community Action Agency (CAA) and Human Resources Authority (HRA) Executive Director Julie Moberg was the master of ceremonies. Members of the Funds Board in Delta County, Advisory Council Members in all three counties, CAA Board Members and staff, and representatives from volunteer sites joined the volunteers for the luncheon and recognized the time volunteered during 711 visits to 13 sites between November 2018 to October 2019. Sites are individual houses, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and adult foster care establishments — all places a person calls “home” and wants to stay.
Senior Companion volunteers aid others in helping them live full and independent lives. Volunteers add to the quality of life for their parings, while providing transportation for medical appointments, grocery shopping, and companionship.
“Our volunteers in the Senior Companion Program, through the Community Action Program, serve the three counties of Delta, Menominee, and Schoolcraft. Our main goal is visiting the elderly population. That could be going into the nursing homes, into adult foster care homes, assisted living, in-home — it’s amazing,” said Maule. “In the nursing homes, for example, you think they have staff, but our volunteers make a big difference within the city, having that companionship.”
Staff of Senior Companions receive a referral for someone and they visit that person to find out their interests before pairing them up with a volunteer.
“Part of the referral form asks what they would like to do with them. We see what a volunteer has to offer, maybe has the same interest … and that’s basically how we match them up,” said Maule. “About 99 percent of the time we’re pretty good, but there’s always that one percent that things just don’t work out.”
Many of the volunteers say the people they visit are happy to see them.
“Their faces light up when our volunteers walk into the room,” said Maule.
The Senior Companion Program is part of the Senior Corps, volunteers who serve communities from young and old alike. The Corporation for National and Community Service Senior Corps include the programs Foster Grandparents and RSVP.
To be a volunteer in the Senior Companion program, you must be 55 years of age and over, commit to 15 hours or more a week, and pass a background check. Volunteers receive a modest, tax-free stipend to partially offset the cost of volunteering. For more information, contact Maule at 906-786-7080, ext. 144, or 800-562-9131.