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!

Our clients had a great time. Most of our clients have limited access to transportation and usually have to use the rides they have for necessities, so attending a social event is a luxury. Ms. G said it was the first time she’d been out in months that wasn’t a doctor’s appointment.

You can listen to the interviews here!

AHH Holiday Party

Last weekend we hosted our annual holiday party. Clients, companions, interns, board members, and staff gathered for a festive occasion featuring a performance by the UNC a cappella group Harmonyx. It was wonderful to see everyone there, and we’re already looking forward to next year!

 



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. On top of all that, Steffi makes time to connect the volunteers to opportunities with AHH that suit their interests, and she’s written innumerable letters of recommendation for the students who volunteer with us. She has an encyclopedic knowledge of the needs and abilities of each of her 90 clients and 75 volunteers and interns so that she can match them appropriately. Even though her day-to-day work keeps her constantly busy, she always makes time to talk to any client or volunteer who calls, even if it turns into an hour-long conversation.

A Helping Hand simply could not function without Steffi’s tireless efforts. Through the many roles she’s held with AHH, she’s markedly improved the lives of older adults and adults with disabilities in the community. Throughout her five years with AHH, Steffi has made her mark on our programs, growing the charitable program to serve easily three times the number of clients than ever before!

Make your Giving Tuesday donation today! You can donate in Steffi’s honor here. The donation page will be open until December 2.



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



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



Special K

Last year, Katarina was a senior psychology major at UNC on the pre-med track. She had been involved with many organizations on campus, but realized she was missing a meaningful way to connect with the broader community. As an undergrad student, many of the people she interacted with on a daily basis were her own age. Her grandparents had died in 2011, and since then she’d had very little contact with older adults. Katarina applied for an internship with A Helping Hand and was matched with three clients in the Chapel Hill area. She assisted each of her clients weekly, providing companionship for Ms. S, helping Ms. R get out and about to run errands, and helping Mr. M navigate his online classes.

Because of her work with us, Katarina’s perspective on the elderly population and her community evolved. She became more sensitive to issues such as fibromyalgia, lupus, diabetes, and chronic pain, having witnessed the daily toll these conditions took on her clients. After completing her internship, she said that the experience had made her a more compassionate and understanding person. It made her realize the importance of practicing medicine in a way that empowers patients, and she came to see seniors as complex individuals, deserving of equality and attention.

In addition to the ways Katarina grew from her experience as an intern, she’s made a huge impact on her community. Read more



Interns make an impact

Our interns are the lifeblood of our charitable program at A Helping Hand. We rely on them to provide assistance to 40 of our volunteer clients every semester. These clients depend on their companions each week in order to go grocery shopping, get to doctor’s appointments, and pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy. Without the help of our tireless interns, we would need to recruit 30 or 40 new volunteers to serve all of our clients!

The most recent class of interns, from the summer 2017 internship, provided nearly 1,310 hours of assistance to 62 local seniors and adults with disabilities. This made a huge impact in our community and in the lives of each of our clients. In all, the interns double our capacity to serve our community. 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



Going the extra miles

 

When I was an intern last fall, one of the clients I assisted every week was Ms. L. She lived in an assisted living facility in Durham and was miserable there. The focus of her AHH interns each semester was helping her look for an apartment in Wilmington, so she could live on her own and be near the ocean. After years of working toward it, she finally was able to move to Wilmington in April. Although she was sad to be leaving her AHH companions behind, she was thrilled to finally be moving to a place she would be happier and more independent.

A few weeks ago, Steffi got a call from Ms. L. She was really happy in her new place, and she loved Wilmington, she said. But she’d lived there for four months, and she hadn’t been to the beach yet. Would any of her former companions be available to take her to the beach for a day?

Steffi told her that she couldn’t make any promises but she would ask the interns who had worked with Ms. L to see whether any of them would be able to go to Wilmington for a beach trip. I accepted the invitation. After looking up beaches that would be wheelchair accessible, I called Ms. L and set up a time for my visit. Last weekend, I hit the road for a day at the beach.

Ms. L was excited to show me around her new place. She had decorated her kitchen with blue towels and knick-knacks, some of which I recognized from our shopping trips in Durham. We chatted and it was clear that Ms. L was happier than she had been in the assisted living facility, although she missed the company of her neighbors. When I asked whether she was ready to go the beach, her eyes lit up.

I expected that sitting on the boardwalk at Carolina Beach would be the closest we could get to the waves, since Ms. L’s wheelchair could not travel over sand. But we stumbled upon a stretch of accessible beach surface at one of the beach entry points – a series of blue plastic tiles that allowed Ms. L’s chair to roll closer to the ocean. Ms. L slipped off her shoes and dug her feet into the sand. Her toe tapped along to the music a group of girls was playing nearby. As she gazed at the ocean, the bright blue sky, the seagulls and the people all around us, she had a smile of complete contentment on her face.

At the end of the day, I commented on how fun the afternoon had been. Ms. L responded, “There wasn’t a second of today that I wasn’t happy.”

All we had done was take a 15-mile drive to the beach, but it wasn’t something that Ms. L could have done on her own. All it took was a few hours of my time to bring her a carefree, joy-filled afternoon at the beach.