Kate’s Memory Cafe – Who Are You?

Kate's Memory Cafe, dancing to live music.

Who Are You? 

By Katie Donovan

“There are four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers; those who currently are caregivers; those who will be caregivers; and those who will need caregivers.”  Rosalyn Carter, former First Lady.

These words from Rosalyn Carter made me reflect on the service that I provide regularly as the volunteer coordinator via Kate’s Memory Café for Helping Hands Respite Care.  It is quite amazing to me that even in the thick of things, there are many individuals who do not self-identify as a caregiver.  I am gob-smacked at the idea that so many of these participants who are experiencing a life-turned-upside-down in service to their loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, seem so oblivious to the toll this vital and loving service may be waging on them personally.  There is a numbness that creeps in and steals away the joy in simple things like laughter among friends, the pleasure in a nice meal shared, or the satisfaction and balance that comes from exercising self-care in things large and small.  Over time that numbness turns into a bone tiredness which breeds a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.  And, that can’t be good for the caregiver or the one in their care.

Katie Donovan, Faciliator of Kate's Memory Cafe
Katie Donovan, Facilitator of Kate’s Memory Cafe

Purpose of Kate’s Memory Cafe

After 2plus years of facilitating this monthly event, I recently took the opportunity to ask those in attendance why they thought we were gathered together for Kate’s Memory Café.  The answers were obvious and sometimes sweet…but not exactly what I was listening for.  My commitment to the Memory Café has been to help the primary caregivers in the group whether they were a spouse, significant other, child to an aging parent, a sibling, a grandchild, a neighbor, or best friend…to recognize the critical importance of claiming respite for themselves and for their loved one.

What I have learned is that if someone does not self-identify as a caregiver it is a real uphill battle to help them understand how important respite truly is for them.  A few years ago, after sharing some stories about the work of Helping Hands Respite Care to a group of city employees, an Emergency Responder shared his personal on-the-job experience with those people in the community considered to be medically vulnerable.  He said he and all his co-workers know the addresses of all of the vulnerable households in the city.  He confessed his great surprise that upon being called out to respond to those vulnerable households…50 percent of the time it was not the person with a disability needing help!  It was the caregiver needing the emergency medical response.

What that tells me is that these caregivers had worn themselves out to the point of illness and vulnerability. My despair comes from knowing that there are more people out there in our community who need to learn more about respite care and need to be emboldened to claim some for themselves ….because it will be good for the one they are caring for and for themselves.

Kate’s Memory Café is a free service to the community.  It is offered to the public FREE of Charge through the generosity of sponsors in our community like AF Group and McClaren Greater Lansing. Kate’s Memory Café is for any care couple.  The Memory Café convenes on the second Sunday of the month at the offices of Helping Hands Respite Care where the room that normally holds the Adult Day Services Program operates Monday thru Friday is transformed into a café with table clothes, decorations, live music, snacks, a meal, and fun activities planned, and most important an informational break for the caregivers in the group.

Caregivers are encouraged to invite other people in their circle who might become part of their natural support system of respite care providers.  Those that wish to attend are asked to RSVP so that food and activities can be planned accordingly.

To learn more or to RSVP email katie@helpinghandsrespite.care or call 517-242-7355. In addition to finding caregivers to serve, we are always looking for volunteers to help create the café.  We need entertainers willing to share for a minimum of 30 minutes of music; volunteers willing to help set up, clean-up, engage with individuals with memory loss, and join us for the meal.

The Gift of Pancakes

Executive Director John Stauffer talks about the Gift of Rotary Pancakes

By John Stauffer, Executive Director of Helping Hands Respite Care and East Lansing Rotarian

East Lansing Rotary Pancakes in the Park is one of the things I look forward to every year. As a person who has spent most of their life in the marketing arena, and loves people, Pancakes in the Park is just a comfortable and enjoyable event for me. This year was special because the efforts of the committee included several new elements to the Pancakes event. If I were to summarize the committee’s work it would be simple.

Less work, more money, great job!

It is because of more than money that I stand before you today. In an effort to honor the “Service to Community” piece of Rotary, the Pancakes in the Park committee suggested this year to give a portion of the proceeds to a couple of the non-profits that they have associated themselves with in the past.

Helping Hands Respite Care, a non-profit that I have the honor of being the director for, was the recipient of a $2,500 check from the proceeds of the pancake event. We were given the opportunity to sell tickets, advertise the event on our website, and push the event to our friends on Facebook, and have a presence at the actual event. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire process. The committee invited me as the director of Helping Hands to be present at meetings prior to the event to share ideas and information as it pertained to advertising, promotion and the selling of tickets. It made the Pancakes event much more personal for me this year.

The Gift of Rotary Pancakes

Last week I walked in to the regular Rotary meeting and Amy (club treasurer) quietly handed me a check for $2,500, the commitment to Helping Hands that our club had made at the beginning of this process. The check was quietly folded and placed in my shirt pocket. It appeared uneventful, but it was anything but. I had a tear in my eye because of what that check represented. It was the culmination of a collaboration between the two organizations of which I am most proud to be a member.

This check represented the congruence of value and service between our two agencies – I believe everyone in this room is here because they see Rotary as a way to exponentially expand the things that we believe in and leverage the good work we want to see accomplished locally and globally. The check in my breast pocket last week was an acknowledgment from an agency I proudly serve, to an agency I proudly represent. An acknowledgment that you believe in the work we do.

Cathy Zell (president-elect) asked that I share a little about how our agency has or intends to use the funds received. What I say to you today is the fact that you entrusted the funds to our use without first requiring or directing what the use of the funds would be is so much more important than what we actually did do with those dollars. Thank you so much for your belief in Helping Hands, and for those of you who just have to know your funds are being utilized – they are being used to help us grow a new program at Helping Hands Respite Care where we use paid interns from MSU, students majoring in Kinesiology, Nursing, Family Studies, Social Work, Pre-Med and Psychology, to work directly in our programs and in the family’s homes of those we serve.

Helping to fund a program that will ultimately facilitate helping even more families who desperately need respite (a short break) from the intense responsibility of being fully present 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for their loved one with a disability or failing health. For me…that is the Gift of Pancakes this year!

Kathryn Green Named as Child In-Home Supervisor

Kethryn Green, new Child In-Home supervisor at Helping Hands Respite Care

Reviewing the reasons why Kathryn Green is a great candidate for a supervisor’s position, it became clear she was the best choice for Child In-Home Supervisor. In her 2+ years at Helping Hands Respite Care there has been no employee who has racked up more positive attention,  been named Employee of the Month numerous times, and rapidly advanced from caregiver, to team leader, to assistant supervisor, and now supervisor.

“When you see great talent found in Kathryn Green it is an easy choice to take advantage of the energy, willingness to learn and to grow,” shared Executive Director John Stauffer.

“I am committed to supporting our Child In-Home families in the best way possible while also helping our caregivers remain up to speed and accountable to their important responsibilities,” said Kathryn.

What happened to Nicole?

Some may be asking what happened to our previous Child In-Home Supervisor, Nicole Holbrook. The reason for her departure was precipitated by an escalating family situation. Like many families that we help, Nicole was called to provide regular care for an aging family member.

While her title and responsibilities to the organization may have changed, we are pleased to have Nicole available to our families specifically for the purposes of availing themselves of family counseling services.

BBT Program Move from Gier Center to Beekman Center

Program Move - BBT will be at the Beekman Center instead of the Gier Community Center

Announcing Program Move: The Breaking Barriers Today (BBT) program is moving from Gier Community Center back to the Beekman Center. Effective 9/1/17, the transition of the Breaking Barriers Today program will be complete. We are sad to lose access to such a wonderful facility at Gier. Unfortunately, we simply could not see the path towards growing the program to serve more of the families with an adult child aging-out of the school district sponsored programs.  Although the need is there, the perception of this program as competition rather than an alternate option conspired against getting the expected referrals to grow the program.

The bright side is that the proximity to the Beekman Center and Heartwood School students/families should yield more referrals into our modified Breaking Barriers Today program and the Respite House weekend respite program. Going forward the Breaking Barriers Today program will primarily be an after school program.

With new leadership (read about new supervisor) and enthusiasm for our re-defined BBT program we have great hopes for growth in this program.

The Ability Experience and Helping Hands Respite Care

Ability Experience bike riders lined up in front of Helping Hands for a reception line

On July 30th  The Ability Experience happened in East Lansing as 37 hot and sweaty young men converged on Helping Hands Respite Care for a special visit.  These men, all part of a national fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, competed to be selected to be part of what some might consider 50 plus days of torture.  They hoped to be chosen to be part of an amazing, life-changing journey, aptly called the Journey of Hope.  It is all part of the fraternity’s national charitable fund-raising organization The Ability Experience event where three teams of riders are assembled to participate in a cross-country fund-raising bike rides. There are three routes planned across country – a northern route, mid- of the country route, and the southern route. They all begin in major west coast cities and end in Washington DC.  Each man selected to participate is responsible for raising the funds to cover the cost of their participation in a national cross-country bike ride, to train in preparation for the ride, and to assist in fund-raising.

For the past three years, Helping Hands Respite Care has been one of the friendship visit stops of the Journey of Hope riders.  Friendship stops are planned for the riders so that they may meet and engage with people with disabilities served by a variety of organizations.  You see, the mission of The Ability Experience is to not only raise funds to be granted to nonprofits like Helping Hands, but also to create a generation of future leaders who will have a greater understanding, compassion, and connection with people with disabilities. Helping the riders understand that while the people they meet on their journey may have disabilities – they also have many abilities!

Hosting the Ability Experience riders has become an event that we look forward to each year.

The Ability Experience games include Giant  Jenga. Two riders and Bob Sr. and Jr. Matheson took a chance with the game.

The past two years we have taken the community picnic to the next level by planning fun, interactive games for the riders to participate in with some of our clients and family members.  This year our “Ability Games” included the popular water-balloon human bowling pins, giant jenga, an old-fashion hula-hoop competition, pool noodle javelin throwing, flying discs, and corn-hole bean bag toss.

Putting on this community picnic and games is an effort that is largely accomplished by the administrative team of Helping Hands Respite Care.  Leading the charge in planning, set-up, and even game creation is our leader and executive director, John Stauffer.  Also at work before, during and after were:  Office Administrator Janette Lauzon (plus her team of young men that came to help set-up and clean-up); Scheduler Rhonda Mliakoff who joined in the food prep and cooking duties along with Adult Day Services Nurse Jane Rogers; Adult In-Home Supervisor Jeff Nunham and his wife Karen focused on the grills, cooking, and keeping the food line supplied; Consultant Katie Donovan provided some shade as she stuffed her 20×10 foot tent in her little Chevy and convinced the East Lansing Rotary Club to lend us two other smaller tents; and ADS program Team Leader Jeff Gindlesberger showed up early to help with set-up and clean-up.

Volunteers for Ability Experience Community Picnic

Volunteers included Connie Tubbs who arrived early to help with food prep; Bill Bartilson once again came prepared to create music and public address system for us; and Board Member Jane Beaudoin stepped up to fill a critical need for the riders….the Beaudoins convinced their condo association to allow the riders to bunk at the community building and pool overnight. Once the guys arrived it was clear that there was not enough room so Jane and Gary Beaudoin opened their home for more of the riders.

We had clients join in the fun from our Adult Day Services program, Kate’s Memory Café regulars, our Child-In Home program, and Adult-In Home.  Some care-providers who were on-duty providing respite care made sure to come and join in along with their care partner.  Several Board Members and donors also arrived for the picnic and festivities.

While we put on this event with the skinniest of budgets, and tax our hard-working team to get it all done, we find it to be so richly rewarding in those little moments where we interact with the riders, or have a moment to enjoy the company of client/families/friends in a social setting. This is an event that pays dividends of the heart.  To all of those who lent a hand to make this event happen …we are so grateful!



Capacity Grant from Our Community Foundation

Our Community Foundation fundamentally changes Annual Grant-Making Process to include capacity grantLogo for Our Community Foundation. Helping Hands Respite Care a grateful recipient of this change.

In a dramatic shift towards helping local nonprofits to build capacity and make major impacts in their respective service areas, Our Community Foundation, formerly known as Capital Region Community Foundation, re-defined and rolled out a new grant process this spring.  Helping Hands Respite Care received one of many $1000 Assessment/Audit Grants to help local nonprofit organizations narrow their focus and determine whether they would make application for a capacity grant or an impact grant.

Helping Hands was given the opportunity for an assessment by an organization well-versed in nonprofit structure and challenges.  The result of the assessment included a recommendation for both Board Training and assistance with our next Five Year Strategic Planning Process.  That recommendation and proposal for service was rolled into a Capacity Grant.  Additionally, Our Community Foundation searched out local agencies ready for assistance on Fund Development and created a fast track to a training opportunity with the Benevon for Sustainable Fund Raising organization.  After filling out a pre-application, Helping Hands was invited to include Benevon Training and Support as part of the Capacity Grant.

Timing of the next available Benevon Training which was scheduled for mid-June in Dearborn, was tight, but once we got the grant approval for the training – work began in earnest to take advantage of this amazing opportunity.  Helping Hands was selected as one of five local nonprofits that demonstrated their readiness to take advantage of the capacity grant and the resources made available from Our Community Foundation.  “The hard work of the past six years is beginning to pay-off, shared Helping Hands leader John Stauffer. It is an honor to be perceived as at the tipping point of success by the community foundation.  The help comes at just the right time as we forecast no end in sight for the growing need for the respite services provided by our organization to the community covering Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties.”

Kevin Bush – New BBT Supervisor

Kevin Bush, new BBT Supervisor

Meet Kevin Bush Who Changed Jobs as a Child Advocate to Supervise the BBT Program

We are thrilled to have Kevin Bush join our administrative team.  Kevin graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelors in Psychology. He recently worked at St. Vincent Catholic Charities as a Child Advocate it its Children’s Home program.  The children in residence at the Children’s Home are in the Foster Care system and came to the program with high needs for emotional healing.  Kevin’s gentle but firm manner combined with his educational experience make him a highly prized employee.

“We are blessed to have Kevin join our team and look forward to the imprint he will have on the Breaking Barriers Today program as supervisor, and his Team Lead position for the Respite House program,” shared Executive Director John Stauffer.

“I have a passion for leading and taking care of people who are vulnerable and may need encouragement to grow and learn, “shared Kevin. “This choice to help children came out of a college intern experience where I worked one-on-one with a child in an Adolescent Diversion Program. I found the close contact meaningful and it was a real boost to see progress.  I am excited to get started at Helping Hands Respite Care because I feel like I will have the opportunity to know and feel the effects of making a difference in the lives of the children in our care.”

Newly married, Kevin and his wife Stephanie are enjoying making a life in a home on the west side of Lansing in a rural setting close to the Woldumar Nature Center.

Nancy Hall – My Respite Care Story

My Respite Story features Nancy Hall and her son JimmyMom, Nancy Hall, Shares My Respite Care Story

Being the parent of a special needs child is not easy. You find you have an abundance of patience you never knew you had, a voice that can be loud when advocating for your child since he cannot speak for himself, and strength and stamina as caring for a special needs child can be quite exhausting at times. But there are also many rewards. You will never look at life the same way again and learn to appreciate even the smallest accomplishments. Just seeing Jimmy happy and content is all I need.

I love my “Jimmers,” as I call him, and while he is not verbal he certainly knows how to make his needs known. When he is happy he will clap his hands, and tap his feet on the floor. I call those his “Happy Feet.” When I hear him “OOOING” I know all is good in his world. When Jimmy does not want to do something, he squawks at me. A good example is when I make him brush his teeth. He gets over being mad quickly though.

When Jimmy was 3 years old we knew that he would need specialized care. That is when we enrolled him in the Beekman Center, one of the few options in this area for children like Jimmy. Even though this was the right choice for him, putting him on the bus for the first time was so hard. I know I cried all the way to work that day and cried one and off most of the day. He just seemed so little and the bus seemed so big! Jimmy was so little and vulnerable. I felt like I was sending him off to strangers but I knew he would be in good hands.

The program at Beekman was helpful but we needed to cover the care gap after school. It was essential that my husband and I be able to work, both for financial reasons and for personal social reasons. I enjoy getting out and going to work and need that adult interaction. I have made many special friendships over the years with the people I work with.

At first, we turned to after school care in a private home. That was until the day I came to pick up Jimmy and he was crying which was very unusual for him. My mother’s intuition told me something was just not right. Not long after that Jimmy slipped out of the yard through an unlocked gate, something he had never done before. My heart sank! All I could think of was the “what ifs” that could have happened. Jimmy is defenseless and cannot fight back. He could easily be taken advantage of. I knew a change had to be made and went searching for a better solution. That was 20 years ago when we came to trust the organization then known as Lap Respite Center, now Helping Hands Respite Care.
In that time Jimmy has been well cared for over the years in various versions of the after school program. Having Helping Hands Respite care as part of our team has been an important part of Jimmy’s overall care plan. It is hard to explain the peace and confidence I feel being able to go to work knowing that Jimmy is in good hands and is in a safe and loving environment. It also brings me comfort that the staff at Helping Hands is fully trained to meet Jimmy’s individual needs.

Not too long ago Jimmy turned 26 and aged out of the Beekman Center program. The after school program, called Breaking Barriers Today, located at the Gier Community Center, has been a great environment for Jimmy. Jimmy loves it there! The staff has also been resourceful and worked very hard to accommodate our need for more care. The alternative would be having Jimmy at home and even though he would receive good in home care, there would not be enough stimulation and interaction like he receives at the Breaking Barriers program. He needs structure and a routine and so do I.

My husband and I are so grateful for the care and support we get from Helping Hands Respite Care. I know Jimmy is at the right place as I pull into the parking lot at Gier and I hear his “Happy Feet” tapping away in the back seat. It is music to my ears! I honestly do not know what we would have done without their help over the years.

And the respite is not only for Jimmy, but for my husband and I too. Sometimes we will take a day off work and just enjoy what we want to do while Jimmy is being cared for. It may seem like a small thing to most but it is vital for our well-being.
Our hope for the future is that Jimmy’s care will continue with Helping Hands. It has always been our goal to keep Jimmy living at home with us and Helping Hands Respite Care is helping us achieve that goal. We feel so blessed to have Helping Hands Respite Care as a huge part of our lives now and hopefully for years to come.

Mary Claire Abbott Speaks On Interning at Helping Hands

Mary Claire Abbott Intern at Helping Hands Respite CareI have been interning at Helping Hands Respite Care for about four months now, and I can honestly say I have learned more about where I have been, where I am and where I am going than any other time frame in my life. I went into this internship with minimal experience working with individuals with special needs, but still had more than most others in today’s society. Jeff Nunham had asked me in my interview why I would be a good candidate for this position, and I said something along the lines of how I want to become a nurse after I graduate and I love helping people. Both of which are still true, and still important. But as I reflect on these past four months there are many more reasons as to why I thrived at this job, and more importantly why I love it so much.

I go to work every day with the goal of brightening someone’s day, I want to put a smile on my clients face. The funny thing is, without fail, every time I leave work they put a smile on my face. These individuals have taught me how to live life to the fullest; they have made me appreciate where I have come from and what I have. They have taught me to fear less and love deeper. They have taught me to be kind, compassionate and understanding, to everyone.

One of the most important things I have learned is that people with disabilities are still people. They might look different, communicate differently, or live differently than you and I, but they are more powerful than we know. I have learned some of the most important life lessons from my client, an eight-year-old client who is completely non-verbal and non-mobile. He has never said a word to me, but he has reached my heart in a way that words never could.

People will ask me what I do, and I simply explain how I work with people with disabilities and nine times out of ten their response is “Wow this is so awesome, that must be so hard!” And you know what they are right- what we do is hard. It is hard work and a lot of people couldn’t do what we do, but I think to myself when I am working with them about how hard their life is every day. I have moments that are hard- they have days that are hard, months that are hard, years that are hard. So yes, this internship has been hard, but what the clients and families that Helping Hands serve do every day is more difficult and inspiring than what I do.

This organizations and the clients I work with have changed my life, I am proud of the caregiver, friend, sister, daughter, future mother and future nurse that I have become from this experience. What this organization does is special- and I couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity to work at a place like Helping Hands Respite Care. Thank you.

John Stauffer Casts Vision for Future

John Stauffer Casts Vision at Annual BreakfastA speech delivered by John Stauffer April 26th at the Annual Helping Hearts Giving Society Breakfast to cast a vision for the future of Helping Hands Respite Care.

It brings me great comfort to see so many familiar friendly faces in the room. Faces of individuals and agencies who have been assisting Helping Hands Respite Care in its effort to provide quality respite within our community for years. I also see many new faces, I welcome you under our respite umbrella – there is more work to do therefore I am very glad for your presence here today. John Stauffer, executive director casts a vision at annual Helping Hearts Giving Society

This year we have chosen to celebrate our successes. I think it is a fitting theme because we have had memorable successes in spite of working through a difficult climate. Over the last year we have experienced 11 deaths. Those who support us know the fragility of our clients, but this was an exceptionally high toll on families and for our staff to overcome this year. It is impossible to do the type of intimate care provided by our agency without getting emotionally invested, but we have chosen to celebrate the life of each and every one of those 11, in small ways each and every day, instead of mourning their loss.

This year has also been financially difficult, not just for us but for many non-profits. Many services have been cut and doors closed because of tightening of federal dollars to support non-profit causes. The constant struggle of trying to do more with less is something we have embraced at Helping Hands Respite Care and in a large part is what I am here to celebrate with you today.

I stood here before you a year ago and shared a vision, and it is from that vision that the successes I share with you today have become reality. The vision included restructuring who we are and how we operate as an agency, specifically through the use of volunteers. While like most visions it did not unfold exactly as planned but the results have far exceeded our expectations.

Kate's Memory Cafe logo for inclusion in speech by John StaufferKate’s Memory Café, born from this fund raising process, is a free service run by volunteer Katie Donovan and was already in existence when I spoke to you last year. This event takes place on the 2nd Sunday of every month. In the beginning I would join Katie and we would rush around getting the room ready, food prepared, musicians set-up, tables arranged for the guests that were about to share an afternoon with us of food, music, laughter, stories and even occasionally tears.

What has changed since I stood before you here last year? I have only attended one Memory Café session in the last year. Katie has developed a core group of volunteers like Loretta Keaner. Along with a larger group of “occasional” volunteers who have assisted her each and every month in assuring those families who attend have a warm, memorable experience. Volunteers who showed up because over the last year people like Vicki Rakowski, and Barb Zimmerman, shared their expertise in volunteerism to help our agency implement our vision of better service to our clients through improved utilization of volunteers. Vicki and Barb over the last year have created the manual that helps us recruit, train, and retain these volunteers. It is that which has helped Kate’s Memory Café enjoy the successes it has experienced over the last year.

One of our longest running programs is our weekend Respite House, a structure owned by McLaren Greater Lansing and staffed by Helping Hands Respite Care for 25 years. About a year ago McLaren Greater Lansing’s CEO, Tom Mee, caMcLaren logo for John Stauffer's speechme to speak at the East Lansing Rotary, a group to which I happen to belong. I seated myself at Tom’s table and struck up a conversation, three short weeks later I was in his office with Katie Donovan explaining to Tom ways in which we could work together. He called his marketing manager, Brian Brown, into the room. After a few brief conversations Tom had wheels set in motion that included some wonderful financial support to our agency, and an agreement to work with the community in supporting our efforts to update our aging Respite House.


Respite House renovation highlighted in John Stauffer speech.
Pi Kappa Phi volunteers helping at Respite House

When built, our Respite House had everything you could want in a handicap accessible structure, However that was 25 years ago and my how things have changed. With the help of a Go Fund Me campaign and a financial promise from McLaren we got busy updating. Our Board President-elect Jane Beaudoin and her husband Gary basically lived at the Respite House for a week last August. We changed-out appliances, scraped and painted basement walls, updated flooring, added wall mounted lifts to help with transfers, painted all the walls on the main floor, and completely gutted and rebuilt our bathroom with tiled walls and a zero-entry shower. The bathroom renovation can be attributed to Sam Tucker, another of our hard-working board members. He, his crew, and contractor friends made an absolutely amazing transformation in our bathroom. Our kids were lining up to take a shower, it was that much fun. (thanks Sam). Another board member who couldn’t stay away from the fun was our Board President, Kevin Beard, who showed up like a gunfighter ready for action with his tool belt slung low, he helped assure all our appliances were installed and working properly (thanks Kevin). Jane, our vice-president having seen the deplorable condition of our bedding gathered up her neighbors to help purchase new linens for the four beds at the house and this group of neighbors will forever now be known as the “Ladies of the Sheets.” The Greater Lansing Quilters Guild stepped up with three new quilts for each bed. Our kids love the vibrant colors and intricate patterns. In all, over 40 volunteers have helped in two structured project work groups to help turn our Respite House pumpkin back into a glittering carriage. A monumental task, but one that took on a life of its own and again far exceeded expectations all because of collaborators like McLaren Greater Lansing and a very large group of volunteers secured because of our new volunteer focus.

Our greatest success this year is the implementation of a new business model for Helping Hands that utilizes paid internships in each and every program we offer. The utilization of paid interns ensures quality care is accomplished at a far lower cost than a typical Helping Hands Care provider. The interns come from human service majors at Michigan State University. To date we have paid interns from family studies, social work, kinesiology and psychology. We are working with pre-med, nursing, and neuro-science to expand those available to complete a paid internship. These interns come to us usually as juniors or seniors and are excited about the opportunity to put their newly learned skills to work in a hands-on practical setting. We require each intern to complete our training which, as many of you already know, is the best in the area for those agencies providing respite. These interns must be with us for at least two semesters and their assistance will help stabilize any effect of outside financial influences like changes in minimum wage, because we control and set the stipend the interns receive. In our Beta test that started in January, we received an A grade from the University, mainly because we successfully completed and turned in, all the required paperwork. From the families and the interns themselves we get an A+. Just ask Mary Claire, who will share with us just a snippet of her personal experience as one of our Beta test paid interns.

There it is, the highlights of this year’s greatest successes we wanted to celebrate with you. Kate’s Memory Café,the Respite House face-lift and our new business model that incorporates paid interns. While all three are successes, much work still remains to be done. We have just scratched the surface on what we can do with volunteers. We only have one complete semester under our belts with our paid interns. We will look to you for support to help stabilize and grow these fledgling programs. Once that is accomplished your continued generosity and faith in our ability to provide quality programming and leadership in the area of respite in our local area will help us address our next big challenge. That is, our friends and collaborating agencies are currently knocking on our door and asking us to work with them and to help them in new and exciting endeavors that pertain to respite needs. Your support is the how and why we will be able, as an agency, to continue to make significant progress and with great impact in serving these respite needs.