our best ambassadors grow out of partnerships
With more than thirty programs in Northern New England, one of the challenges Volunteers of America faces is how to talk about who we are, in a succinct yet comprehensive way.
Over the years, our Senior Programs have become so much a part of their respective neighborhoods that they are referred to by their individual names. "Westrum House" and "Paul Hazelton" and "Richard Brown" are almost human members of their local communities.
As a result, residents and Community Partners alike have become some of our best ambassadors, helping to explain who we are and what we do.
YELP Maine is a perfect example. What an incredible organization! At Bayview and Fay Garman Houses, YELP visits every year, has fun with residents and works hard on the grounds, then sends us wonderful photographs. And you should see the rave reviews they leave us. (click on the names above to read reviews and see photographs!)
At Thanksgiving, YELP came to Bayview and brought snacks and crafts for the residents, as well as a piano player with a keyboard.
Additionally, the Next Level Church and First Parish Church of Saco alternate months making breakfast for Paul Hazelton (I and II) House residents while Thornton Academy Action Team students help with meals and chores and visit residents.
Paul Hazelton House residents have an open invitation to activities at Thornton Academy, and talk about the students fondly and with pride, "just like family," Doug Stebbins, one of the teachers, commented. It's handy, they are only a few blocks from each other, perfect walking distance, for the kids and older adults.
It works both ways. "The students so look forward to visiting and working with the seniors that you'd think they were going to visit their grandparents," Doug continued.
Hannaford funds the To-Go program, making delivery of vegetable, fruits and staple items available to Paul Hazelton residents once a month and Fenderson Farms came to the Paul Hazelton parking lot every Tuesday, all summer long.
For residents of Westrum House in Topsham, the Atlantic Regional Federal Credit Union offers finance coaching for residents on how to use a checking account and how to manage a budget. They have served a Saint Patrick's Day lunch (complete with an accordian player) every year for many years and Brunswick's Senter Fund has provided raised vegetable beds to grow food for the pantry there.
While the Topsham High School Action Team is new and had it's first visit in 2016, the Brunswick High School Action Team has been coming to Westrum House for many years, headed by Rita Maines. She says, "The students always remark, when entering into the activities room 'the residents are always so excited to see us.'"
"They love the time they get to spend with the Westrum House residents either Wii bowling, singing, playing board games or making a craft. Conversation is always aplenty during our visits as well as smiles and laughs." Rita continues.
One of the seniors said of the students' visit, "What kids don't know is that we know what it's like being their age but they have no idea what it's like to be our age! We know that having a good time doesn't depend on a person's age. But they have to figure it out."
As if on cue, one of the students confided, " I thought they were going to be old people but they are just really fun people."
We think this is a delightful way to get the word out about Volunteers of America. We are all about helping people, no matter what age they are, and if everyone can have fun along the way, well, that is icing on the cake...Or frosting on the cookies!