Volunteer of the Year – Loretta Keaner

At a recent meeting of the Helping Hands Respite Care, our Volunteer of the Year, Loretta Keaner was acknowledged. Loretta started working as a volunteer in January of 2016. Her service to Helping Hands Respite Care has included a weekly commitment to the Adult Day Services program, a monthly commitment to Kate’s Memory Café, and some assistance with our annual family picnic and hosting of The Ability Experience riders from Pi Kappa Phi.

Volunteer of the Year, Loretta, serves the Adult Day Services Program

Alison Sarkozy describes Loretta as a true asset to the Adult Day program. “She is a real go-getter, she always tell it like it is and is not afraid to put our caregiver staff in their place, “shared Alison. “ And, I love it! Anything you ask her to do she will jump right in without hesitation. Loretta is always there for our member/participants providing encouragement and support, and also being a non-judgmental sounding board if the member is working through a tough moment.”

Volunteer of the Year Supports Kate’s Memory Cafe

Volunteer of the Year, Loretta Keaner helping out at Kate's Memory Cafe with some balloon volleyball.Katie Donovan spoke of Loretta as her right-hand at making the Memory Café a success. “If there is some lively musical entertainment Loretta will jump up and encourage our visitors to clap along or even dance,” said Katie. “At our last Memory Café we had a mother/daughter duo as entertainment. They spontaneously decided to sing the famous song “My Prayer” ….everyone was transfixed and moved by the beautiful rendition of the song. I am so glad I caught Loretta in the background of the video of the ladies singing ….at one point Loretta slipped into the kitchen to grab a Kleenex to wipe her tears away. That moment of vulnerability just warmed my heart.” Loretta has also provides a very personal gift of service to my Mom at the Memory Café. While Mom attends as my partner in care, she doesn’t see herself as needing any help or support. Loretta treats Mom as a co-volunteer and always make her feel needed and useful. As Mom continues to decline in her own journey with dementia, these moments of competence supplied by Loretta mean so much to me – she can offer Mom something that I simply can’t give as her caregiver and daughter – a simple acknowledgment as a friend.”

Volunteer of the Year Pitches in at Annual Family Picnic

The Annual Family Picnic and Welcoming Event for the 37 plus fraternity brothers from across the nation is an opportunity for more service from Loretta. Putting on the picnic event is a big effort and every volunteer makes it that much easier to give up a Sunday afternoon in July for this event.

We are so thankful that Loretta so generously shares her time and talent.
It was an easy choice to single out Loretta Keaner as our 2017 Volunteer of the Year!

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.

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.