Volunteers Make the Alzheimer’s Association Run – And They Stay for Years

If you’re going to volunteer your time to a community organization, you want to know that your contribution will be meaningful and appreciated. And you’ll want to emerge from the process with a sense of personal satisfaction and accomplishment.

That is certainly the case at the Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado, where more than 91 percent of volunteers surveyed across the state rated their experience as “very satisfied” or “satisfied,” with the average tenure of volunteers being 5.5 years.

Staffed by an army of over 900 volunteers supporting only 50 full-time employees, the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association relies heavily on volunteers who enable the organization to provide a full range of educational programs and services at no charge to individuals living with dementia and their families. In fact, those volunteers contributed more than 17,400 hours of their time last year, which equated to a 20 percent increase in the association’s staffing.

“Our volunteers give us an invaluable boost with their talents, their passion and their energy,” said Gene Sobczak, executive director of the Colorado Chapter. “Without their contributions, we could not provide the level of services that we do today.”

Volunteers serving 15 years and more

The survey respondents covered a wide spectrum of age and experience levels. More than 9 percent of respondents are between 18 and 24 years of age while nearly 26 percent are over 65, with the balance spread between. About 40 percent of those surveyed have been involved as an Alzheimer’s Association volunteer for 2 to 3 years, but more than 11 percent have been committed to the Alzheimer’s cause for 15 years or more.

“There is a great satisfaction in what I do,” said Linda Kuhns, who volunteers four days per week on the Association’s 24/7 Helpline and has worked with the organization for nearly four years.  “Even if I can’t always solve the callers’ problems, I may be able to help them cope.”Linda Kuhns

Kuhns, who is retired from a career in the restaurant business, noted that she values both the Alzheimer’s cause as well as the work environment.

“The quality of the staff is critical,” she said. “Everyone is service-focused and solution-oriented. They are here for the right reasons. They walk the talk.”

Many of the volunteers, like Kuhns, are engaged in more than one activity at the Alzheimer’s Association. In fact, 42 percent are involved in two or more areas. Kuhns, for example, volunteers on the Colorado Chapter’s Denver Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the Memories in the Making Art Auction and represents the chapter at area health fairs in addition to her work on the Helpline.

Specific volunteer skills needed

The Colorado Chapter, which provides services to 69,000 Coloradans living with the disease as well as nearly a quarter of a million caregivers, utilizes volunteers in a multitude of areas. The association is actively seeking volunteers in several specific areas including:

  • Helpline Counselor – The Helpline is one of the most heavily utilized services offered by the Alzheimer’s Association. Volunteers are trained (15-20 hours) to provide resource information and caregiver support in four-hours shifts between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The role requires good telephone etiquette, basic empathic listening and affirmation techniques, and the ability to look up information on a computer and enter information into an online database. Bilingual skills are welcome.
  • Support Group Facilitator – The primary duty of the volunteer is to guide a meeting for persons who are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. Groups meet once per month at a set day and time. Facilitators for the Early Stage Program work with persons in the early stages of Alzheimer’s along with their care partners. Knowledge of the disease and caregiving issues (personal and professional) is required. Two hours of training is provided.
  • Memories in the Making Facilitator – Work with a trained care center staff person to plan and facilitate a weekly art group for individuals diagnosed with dementia. Some art background and understanding of Alzheimer’s or dementia is preferred. Groups meet once a week and the commitment is usually about two hours per week. One-day training is offered several times per year.
  • Public Policy Advocate – Interested in the legislative process? Have time to follow legislation in Denver or Washington, D.C.? Interested in letter writing or making phone calls to develop support for specific legislation? Full-day training is provided in the Denver office.
  • Health Fair Ambassador – Represent the Alzheimer’s Association at community health fairs and other community events and answer basic questions about the Association’s services.
  • Diversity & Inclusion Outreach – The Alzheimer’s Association offers culturally appropriate support for Latinos, African Americans and the LGBT community. Programs and services are all available in Spanish and address the unique needs of a broad range of diverse communities.
  • Early Stage (Alzheimer’s) Activities – Assist with music programs, croquet in the park and other social activities for individuals with early stage Alzheimer’s and their care partners.
  • Special Events Support – Help is needed in event-day tasks, team recruitment and developing corporate sponsorships for our annual events, including the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Memories in the Making Art Auction, Young Professionals (YPAAC) events and annual education symposium.
  • Speakers Bureau – Represent the Alzheimer’s Association and make presentations to community groups. Speaking engagements are offered at a range of times and locations to suit individuals’ schedules.
  • General Office Work – Computer data entry, information research, telephoning (thanking donors and event volunteers) and general office work are among the support that volunteers provide.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Alzheimer’s Association, click here or call Deb Wells, volunteer and statistics coordinator, at 303-813-1669.

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