Where we’ve been

April and May have been busy months here at AHH! We’ve had a lot of exciting events going on that we want to share.

On April 19, in honor of National Volunteer Week, we hosted an appreciation event at Beer Study in Durham. Our volunteers enjoyed drinks, barbecue, and unlimited arcade games! Skee ball turned out to be a big hit. This was just a small way to say thank you to our many dedicated volunteers who donate their time every week to improve the lives of seniors and adults with disabilities.

 

At the end of April, we said goodbye to our spring interns. We celebrated the conclusion of their internship by hosting them and each of their clients at a gathering of food and fun. The clients had a chance to express their gratitude for the wonderful interns they worked with.

May was Older Americans Month! We celebrated by posting a new client photo or story on our Instagram page each day of the month. We were excited to share the stories of some of our amazing clients. Make sure you check out our page, if you haven’t already.

In mid-May, our local universities wrapped up, and many of our companions and volunteers graduated. We’re sad to see them go, but we know they’ll go on to great things. As a result of their experience working with AHH clients, we know they’ll enter their careers as empathetic, person-centered health professionals, with an awareness of the issues that affect older adults and individuals with disabilities.

Finally, at the end of May, we welcomed our summer interns. This summer we have the largest group of interns we’ve ever had – 15 interns, serving more than 40 clients!



Back in action

As a new school semester dawned this past January, three of our former summer interns returned to A Helping Hand as volunteers. These three students had enjoyed their time as interns, but their schedules hadn’t allowed them to continue volunteering after their internships came to an end. Now that it’s a new semester and their schedules have opened up, they were inspired to get back involved with the volunteer program! Read more



Maybe a senior, but always a sister

Today we have a guest post from Mallory, one of our volunteers, who shared a special experience with her client Ms. H.

I thought it would be a great idea to bring Ms. H to lunch at my sorority house when she told me that she was previously a sorority house mom for another sorority at UNC and she loved all of the girls and felt like they kept her young. I figured my sorority house would be very similar to the one she lived in for 7 years, so I asked her if she would like to come. She was SO excited that I asked her and said she couldn’t wait. We planned this two weeks ago and when I got to her house to pick her up today, she was dressed and ready and couldn’t wait to get in the car to go.

My experience was, in one word, rewarding. Read more



Denise serves clients and companions with compassion

When potential clients and companions find out about A Helping Hand, the first person they meet is Denise. Denise Matthewson is our director of client services, which means she helps all of our new clients and companions through the onboarding process.

For clients, this process typically starts with a phone call from a potential client or a family member. Denise describes the type of services AHH can provide, and learns about the client’s particular needs. Then, she visits the client at home, to assess their needs more clearly and go through the enrollment paperwork. Back at the office, she shares information about the client with Rebecca, who manages and schedules the companions, so we can make a perfect client-companion match!

Denise also manages the hiring process for our new companions. She meets each applicant and completes a thorough interview, to determine if their skills match up with our clients’ needs. Read more



It takes a village

Two weeks ago, our new group of spring interns kicked off their internship with a day of orientation. Through this process, they learned the ins and outs of being companion. They discussed their perceptions of older adults, participated in a sensitivity training to simulate some of the physical impairments our clients experience, practiced using mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, learned about managing difficult behaviors associated with dementia, and heard from an A Helping Hand client about her experiences with companions.

In addition to their initial orientation, interns continue to learn throughout the semester through various events in the community, as well as team meetings put together by AHH. To make all of these informative trainings happen, we have a great team of people who volunteer their time to teach our interns how to work with older adults! Read more



The heroes of winter break

College students make up a significant portion of our volunteer base. We love their energy, and their schedules usually match up well with the times that clients need help the most. However, during the holidays and other school breaks when students leave town en masse, we typically have to turn down requests from clients because we don’t have enough volunteers available. This year, our volunteer base has grown, and we have several locally-based volunteers who unfailingly donate their time, no matter the season. Their dependability is getting A Helping Hand clients through the holidays! Read more



Holiday events at AHH

We’ve had a busy few weeks here at A Helping Hand! Along with our Giving Tuesday fundraiser, we’ve been a part of two great events in the run up to the holidays.

The Great Thanksgiving Listen

On November 17, Activate Good gathered a group of volunteers to participate in The Great Thanksgiving Listen, a national project organized by Story Corps. A Helping Hand and several other local organizations arranged for seniors to come and be interviewed for the national archives. The volunteers used the Story Corps app to record each interview, and the interviews are published and collected here. Please take a listen – our clients have fascinating stories! Read more



Steffi serves ceaselessly

Happy Giving Tuesday! In celebration of this day of giving, we’d like to honor Steffi, our volunteer and internship program director. Steffi provides the backbone for all the work we do at A Helping Hand, managing the entire charitable program, with more than 90 clients, 60 volunteers, and up to 15 new interns each semester.

Steffi first started working in the nonprofit world with AmeriCorps, where she served a variety of nonprofits throughout the Northeast. She knew she wanted to continue working for a nonprofit, but didn’t know exactly what area to focus on. She found AHH through a friend who was working as a program coordinator here at the time.

Steffi started out at AHH as a backup companion. She did some office work, but her primary role was as a companion – working with several clients consistently and covering any last minute companion call outs. She then became a fellow, working in scheduling for both the private pay and charitable programs while still assisting clients regularly. After an incredibly busy and stressful fellowship year, Steffi packed up for a year of teaching in Spain.

When she returned to the US, Steffi came back to AHH, this time as the volunteer coordinator, where she has continued for the past two years. She juggles countless tasks on a daily basis, including volunteer and intern recruitment and onboarding, maintaining client and volunteer schedules, managing AHH’s social media, attending trainings, coordinating special events, assisting with paid program scheduling, donating to AHH fundraisers, and occasionally visiting clients. Read more



Zarin’s clients are people first

Zarin had just finished her freshman year at UNC when she started interning with A Helping Hand. Like many people her age, she’d had very little interaction with older adults. She read Atul Gawande’s book “Being Mortal,” which piqued her interest in health care for older adults and prompted her to get involved with elderly members of her community. Through the internship, Zarin assisted one client on a weekly basis, and then filled in with other clients and worked in the AHH office as she was needed. This adaptability was extremely helpful to our office staff and our clients. If a last-minute need cropped up (as they often do!), Zarin was available to help out with just a few hours’ notice. Her flexibility and willingness to take clients to emergency doctor’s appointments or fill in for other companions who called out sick was invaluable.

Working with her clients one-on-one allowed her to get to know her clients well and hear their personal stories. As a future medical practitioner, she learned to get to know her clients as people first, and not just as patients with medical conditions, and to adapt to each client’s needs and personality. Read more



Be a superstar like Shalini

Before Shalini started interning with A Helping Hand, her main interactions with older adults were within her family. Her parents instilled in her the importance of building close relationships with and caring for her grandparents. She was always willing to jump to their side to tie their shoes, buckle their seat belts, or support them as they climbed the stairs. Her fondest childhood memories included listening to their stories and playing the board games that they grew up with.

As a pre-med student at Duke, Shalini wanted to build those same relationships with seniors and adults with disabilities in her community. After being accepted into AHH’s internship program, Shalini was matched with four clients whom she assisted every week. She viewed her time with her clients as adventures — field trips to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, and even weekly dance sessions at the Duke Annex!

Throughout her internship, Shalini was struck by how just a few hours of her time meant so much to the seniors she assisted. Read more