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!

Sumana interned in the summer of 2016. She was inspired by the three clients she worked with for several hours each week. She also got to meet a wide variety of clients that she assisted with one-time visits, providing transportation to medical appointments. When she decided to start volunteering again, she said, “I enjoyed my experience as an intern at AHH and wanted to continue with a volunteer experience that I felt was rewarding. AHH is a great experience because of the people you meet. I’ve found there is something new to learn from every client which has positively influenced the way I view the world.”

Anna Beth was also a summer intern in 2016. The connections she made with her clients made the experience meaningful for her. She had a strong affinity for one of her clients in particular, and they kept in touch after Anna Beth completed her internship. Now with a lighter course load, she was able to commit to volunteering with us again this semester. She told us, “I’m excited to get back out in the community and spend time with clients again!”

Juliette interned with us last summer. She was drawn to AHH for the service learning aspect of our internship program, as well as for the opportunity to learn more about working with older adults. Throughout the summer, the conversations she had with her clients stood out to her. “Every week gave me an opportunity to learn something new about each of my clients. They always told me how grateful they were for AHH and the help I provided them each week, and I was very grateful for the opportunity to meet people that I never would have without AHH,” she said. During her internship, she learned the importance of AHH’s work in the community, and she came back to us, in her words, “because I love being part of an organization that is so dedicated to advocating for a population that often cannot advocate for itself.”

Despite their busy school schedules, the connections these interns made to their clients and the community sparked an enduring passion for serving older adults.

Welcome back to AHH!

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. Denise then leads new hires through our comprehensive orientation process. (We are constantly in need of companions to serve our growing client base; you can learn more and apply here!)

Denise came to A Helping Hand because she was looking for a position that involved more one-on-one interaction than her previous work. She started working for AHH as a companion in 2009, and continued in that role for six years. Throughout that time, she served 50 clients, including several consistently for years. Over her career with AHH, Denise has completed nearly 900 client visits! When a position opened up in our office, volunteer coordinator Steffi remembered Denise’s dedication to her clients and her care and compassion. These qualities have made her a perfect fit for a role that involves connecting clients and families in need with companion care and other community resources.

As if her responsibilities with new clients and companions weren’t enough to keep her busy, Denise also serves many different community groups that are working to improve life for local seniors. She works with the Durham Partnership for Seniors, the Committee on Senior Food and Nutrition, the Chatham Aging Plan, and the Chatham-Orange Community Resource Connections.

Thank you, Denise, for taking on this challenging role with grace and empathy!

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!

Kayla Chee, one of our volunteers (and our 2017 volunteer of the year!), is a physical therapy student at Duke. She provides our interns with mobility training, showing them how to use the assistive devices their clients might use – canes, walkers, and wheelchairs.

Stephani Deberry from Therapeutic Alternatives teaches our interns about managing dementia-related behaviors. Although not many of our interns’ clients have dementia, this training is invaluable future clinicians!

Brittany Halberstadt from the Nasher Museum provides an overview of the Nasher’s Reflections Program, a monthly guided tour for adults with dementia and their caregivers. This is one of a handful of similar programs across the U.S. that allows people with dementia to experience art.

Keegan Cheleden, a Duke Divinity School student and AHH companion, has provided trainings on a variety of subjects, including the importance of physical touch in caregiving, and death and dying.

Kathy Bonner, a former companion, has provided our interns with insights into the role of a companion. She shared her experience as a companion that our clients’ worlds get smaller as they age, and that a companion’s job is to open their worlds back up.

Jennifer Ashley, our Executive Director, provides the foundation of our training by making sure the interns understand all of our policies and procedures. She also provides an additional training during the semester on dementia as a human rights issue.

Our clients! Several of our clients have contributed their knowledge in training our interns. This semester, Ms. B answered interns’ questions and shared her positive and negative experiences with past interns. The previous semester, Ms. R, a former nurse, told the interns about her career in healthcare.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to educate our interns!

2017 Volunteer of the Year!

Our volunteer of the year is….


Kayla Chee!

Be sure to check out the video to find out why Kayla is such an incredible volunteer! Thank you, Kayla, for everything you do.

A very happy holiday

We thought Thanksgiving ended a month ago, but since we’ve came back to the office after the holiday break, we’ve been flooded with messages of gratitude. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said Ms. H. Ms. L called to say, “Thank you for your Christmas gift. It just lifted me up. I was down and this just lifted my spirits.” Mr. B echoed the sentiment, saying that his gift “brightened up my otherwise gloomy life right now.”

For the past several months, the AHH holiday committee has been hard at work organizing holiday gifts for the clients in our charitable and subsidized programs. For many of these clients, a gift from A Helping Hand is the only gift they receive during the holiday season. Funds provided by the Oak Grove Ruritan Club, Activate Good, and individual contributors were used to buy gift cards, and 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

Hannah stands up to age bias

Hannah first came to A Helping Hand as a volunteer. She had previously volunteered in hospital settings, and enjoyed the one-on-one interaction she had with patients. She realized that treating patients with a positive attitude and respect made a difference in their experience at the hospital, and she hoped to make a deeper impact by working with older adults and people with disabilities in the community. She volunteered with AHH for a year, and then applied to participate in our internship program.

Through the internship, Hannah got to visit several clients on a more consistent basis, as well as meet with other interns to share experiences and attend events in the community related to aging and caregiving. Read more

Kayla discovers Durham through volunteering

Kayla is a 24-year-old transplant from Honolulu, Hawaii, who came to Durham, North Carolina, to study physical therapy at Duke University. In school, she enjoys learning about the human brain and how it influences body movement, but in her spare time she also enjoys dancing and going to different community events in the Triangle. But she didn’t always feel this way.

When Kayla first moved to Durham, she felt like an outsider—disconnected from the community and unfamiliar with the area, culture, and city history. After a few weeks in the area, she decided to become more involved in the community to establish her connection to Durham and discover what it had to offer. After perusing a handful of nonprofits online, she found A Helping Hand. Kayla had previous experience working with older adults, and as a future health care clinician, she knew the value and significance of this kind of work. She immediately felt compelled to get involved.

Since becoming a volunteer at AHH, Kayla has met many people from different walks of life throughout the Triangle. By serving her clients, she gets the chance to hear their life stories and discover what brings meaning to their life. 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

Advocating and educating

Ms. Reynolds has been an AHH client for more than four years, and she’s also one of our strongest community advocates. Ms. R gets weekly assistance from one our interns every semester, which gets her out of the house for doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping at Aldi, and ice cream at Maple View Farms. She calls the office regularly to chat and keeps us up to date on the latest gossip. Ms. R loves getting to know the young people she meets through A Helping Hand, and often stays in touch with her interns long after they complete their semester working with her.

Ms. R also spends time advocating for A Helping Hand. In the past month, she has attended two events at UNC with us. At these job and volunteer fairs, Ms. R talked up AHH and used her charm to get students to sign up to volunteer or apply for jobs with us. Her engaging personality drew people to our table, and she had a carefully honed pitch to describe what AHH does and how important our work is to her.

Last Friday, the fall interns had their first team meeting. Read more