Life wasn’t supposed to turn out this way for Monica Londoño. She was living happily in her native Colombia when, at age 21, she met a man from the United States who married her and whisked her away to live in Loveland, Colorado.
That marriage lasted only six years before divorce. Then, tragically, their daughter later passed away at age 7. Suddenly, Monica found herself alone, 3,000 miles from her home, feeling an absence of purpose in her life.
“I had to reevaluate my life and move forward,” said Monica. “I think about how painful it was and how hard it was to wake up in the morning.”
Monica found her purpose and her motivation through giving, and people living with Alzheimer’s disease have been among the primary recipients of her generosity.
“Just giving…just helping…has giving me purpose,” she said. “I would say that we don’t have to think we need to change the world, but we can change the life of one person at a time. I feel that I have been able to make an impact on those people I’ve been able to help. There’s so much need in this world, but I know the person I am helping appreciates it.”
The super volunteer
To say that Monica volunteers her time is an understatement. Somehow, she finds “free time” where others might not. Her days already are full as owner and operator of a franchise of the SENIORS Helping SENIORS business that provides in-home care services. Despite the fact that she has not experienced Alzheimer’s or dementia through her own family, Monica has adopted the cause with a passion.
Monica began her engagement with the Association through the Greeley regional office, volunteering on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Seeing the benefits of her labors, she sought out additional Alzheimer’s training from Regional Director Kelly Ostoff.
“Monica is a priceless volunteer for our organization’s work and has the biggest heart for the people we serve,” said Ostoff. “Despite how busy I know she truly is, she always says yes to lending a hand and her time to our cause.”
From student to teacher
Before long, Monica was certified to teach classes herself…The Basics of Dementia…The 10 Warning Signs…Leaders in Dementia Care… And, being fluently bilingual, she has taught them in both English and Spanish.
“Monica is an invaluable resource serving Spanish-speaking families living with Alzheimer’s disease,” said Marissa Volpe, Diversity and Inclusion coordinator for the Colorado Chapter. “Monica is able to connect immediately with constituents and her Spanish fluency allows her to gain trust, offer critical insights and resources, and bridge communities to the Alzheimer’s Association. She has taught classes on Alzheimer’s disease in Spanish, led a Spanish-speaking caregiver support group, conducted outreach within the Latino community and most recently helped with a Telemundo phone bank. She is, as we say in Spanish, imprescindible — essential!”
Later, Monica heard of a need at the Association’s new Boulder County regional office, so she contacted Regional Director Ralph Patrick and offered her services both on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s and in delivering services.
“Monica is always willing to provide whatever help is needed,” said Ralph Patrick. “She has a very ‘can do’ attitude and is extremely committed to the cause.”
As if that’s not enough, she served a year as a volunteer legislative advocate to U.S. Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, sharing with him the importance of Alzheimer’s-related issues.
“Monica is an ardent advocate for the Latino population and readily contributed her input regarding their special needs,” said Cheryl Parrish, former vice president of Programs for the Colorado Chapter, who worked with Monica on her advocacy efforts. “She is an inspiration and I was enriched by my time working with her in my ambassador role, and interacting at Alzheimer’s Association Walks and other events. She is an ardent advocate on behalf of seniors who struggle with Alzheimer’s and other health challenges. An added bonus is her contagious enthusiasm as a new American citizen. The Alzheimer’s Association is lucky to have her in the volunteer ranks.”
While the Alzheimer’s Association is blessed to have Monica as one of its “super volunteers,” we share her with other worthy causes. She leads an annual medical mission team to Nicaragua where they rent and run a hospital to perform free surgical procedures for about 10 days. And then there’s the Longmont Meals on Wheels program, the Greeley Philharmonic Guild, the Greeley Chamber of Commerce…
“The reason I help so much is because I grew up with three amazing women…my grandmother, my mother and my aunt,” said Monica. “My grandmother and mother were business owners, and my aunt is an incredible woman. I’ve learned that the best way to help community is to give more than you receive.”
Through her business, Monica sees the impact that Alzheimer’s disease has on caregivers. It helps motivate her to engage even more as a volunteer, just as her own company gets busier by the day as the aging population requires more and more help.
“I love all the training I’ve taken with the Alzheimer’s Association,” she said. “I can use everything I’ve learned in my personal life, business…everywhere. Through my business, I’ve been able to see the struggles family members go through when one is affected by this disease. I feel compassion for the 24/7 caregiver because it not only affects you mentally, but physically. Plus, it’s a very expensive disease.”
And, seeing the impact the disease has on both the individual as well as caregivers, she has a wariness of Alzheimer’s.
“With Alzheimer’s…I’m afraid of that one,” she said. “I look at my boyfriend and imagine him not remembering me someday. It’s so emotional.”
That fear drives Monica – as it does nearly 1,000 other Colorado volunteers – to support the Association as it raises funds to find a cure for the disease. Until that time, she has no plans to slow down her pace.
“I will just help and help until I can’t get out of bed anymore,” she said, “or until people stop asking.”