Volunteering to help others, that’s the primary goal behind the Senior Companion Program of the Cleveland-Sunflower-Humphreys Counties Progress, Inc.
On Wednesday, Evelyn Henry, director, and a number of Senior Companion volunteers were invited to the campus of Delta State University to talk about the importance of volunteer work and what they, as individuals, get out of it and encouraged people to take part in Make a Difference Day 2012.
Henry said that Make A Difference Day, set for Oct. 27, is a time when millions of volunteers around the world will unite with a common mission to improve the lives of others.
"Make a Difference Day is the largest community service effort in the nation, rallying corporations, government leaders, charitable organizations and every American into action," said Henry. Last year a record 2.2 million volunteers participated and an estimated 22 million people benefited."
As part of the program to get the word out, Henry and a group of senior companions spoke to multiple student classes in the Social Work department, specifically Volunteering 101 and Aging, taught by Dr. Jana Donahoe.
The Senior Companion Program was started in 1974 and in 1993 partnered up with AmeriCorps, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
In 1993 Pres. Bill Clinton signed the National and Community Service Trust Act, a law that established the Corporation for National and Community Service and brought the full range of domestic community service programs under the umbrella of one central organization.
The Senior Companion Program provides individuals who are at least 55 years of age, and living at or below 200% of the poverty income guideline, with meaningful volunteer opportunities in their community.
Henry said the ultimate goal of the program is to keep seniors at home by stopping the institutionalization.
"Volunteers spend time in private homes and a variety of care settings, such as retirement homes, adult day care centers, nursing homes, and adult foster care homes," said Henry. "They help adults with special needs, such as those with developmental/physical disabilities, mental illness or frailty allowing them to achieve and maintain the highest possible level of independent living.
"Most seniors have fought all their lives to build their homes," she continued. "They don't leave them and studies have shown that programs like senior companions can not only improve their quality of life, but actually expand their life expectancy."
The seniors not only had the opportunity to speak with students about their volunteering efforts, they also had the opportunity to visit a college campus and spread their message to a new generation of volunteers
"Volunteering is a good thing," said one of the senior companions as she addressed the Volunteering 101 class. "For many of us it gives a sense of gratitude to help the less fortunate. We share ourselves with others and we make a difference in the remaining years of their lives. We do this through love and understanding. So, Volunteering is a good thing."
Another group of seniors will make the trip to Cleveland on Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. and continue the message
Henry said that currently there were 35 senior companions in Sunflower County, 15 in Humphreys County and 22 in Bolivar County. Anyone interested in more information is encouraged to call Henry at 887-5593.