Okotoks - An organization providing support to seniors has been granted seed money for its latest project.
100 Women Who Care Foothills met in August and chose Simply Compassion Advocacy Society as its charity this quarter. They donated a total of $10,900 on Sept. 2.
“This money will go to a pilot project we want to do,” said Debbie Dunwell, founder of Simply Compassion.
The organization advocates for vulnerable seniors who struggle with loneliness and isolation, having volunteers chat over the phone during COVID and now in-person with individual seniors to form relationships, providing seniors with music, and having local school children create cards and photo frames, or write life stories.
Last Christmas, Simply Compassion set up a tree at Shoppers Drug Mart in Okotoks for people to choose seniors’ names and purchase gifts for them. Dunwell said presents were given to 87 seniors from that initiative.
She’s hoping to partner with Seasons Retirement Communities in High River and Tudor Manor in Okotoks for the new project.
“It won’t cost them anything, and it will bring in music, education, murals on the walls, we’ll recruit volunteers to come in and do life stories,” said Dunwell. “It’s a huge project and something I’ve wanted to do for years.”
The donation from 100 Women will go a long way to getting the pilot off the ground, which she hopes will be in late September.
She hopes other facilities will want to follow suit once the pilot program gets underway and its benefits are recognized.
“Families will see the change in the facility and how much low-cost items can bring more life to seniors and more joy, and make them feel valued,” said Dunwell.
Teresa Taylor nominated Simply Compassion to receive the 100 Women donation. She is a board member and one of the 20 regular volunteer callers and visitors who has developed a bond with a senior.
One-on-one interaction, whether in-person or remote, is an important part of Simply Compassion’s mandate, she said. It fills a gap for many seniors, and was particularly vital during pandemic shutdowns.
“We hear the sad stories about the loneliness and not feeling valued, and purpose being gone, some of those really hard things that are hard to hear for us, but they highlight the need for change,” said Taylor.
She has volunteered with the organization for one year and while she knows her visits with the 89-year-old friend she’s made are important to him, she gets just as much out of their time together.
“It’s very reciprocal, but I feel like I’m on the winning end,” said Taylor. “I just love my senior. He’s the most amazing man who has really taught me so much about life.
“He’s really been a great gift to me.”
Dunwell said many of the volunteers feel they receive as much benefit from giving their time as the seniors they are paired with.
“They all love hearing their stories,” she said. “They’ve all stayed, all been here over a year. It’s a testament to the seniors and the volunteers.”
Julie Boake, leader of 100 Women Who Care Foothills, said she is thrilled to reach 100 members at the last meeting, a goal the group has been working toward over the past six years since it was founded.
“It was a pretty big moment,” said Boake.
The $10,900 donation to Simply Compassion was the largest the organization has given to-date.
She said there are still many members who choose to give more than their expected $100, which drives the total higher than $10,000.
“When the organization means something it’s easy for people to give a little bit more,” said Boake.
The 100 Women have been able to help a wide variety of charitable groups over the past few years, and she said learning about the types of need and volunteer opportunities in the Foothills is part of the draw.
It’s about witnessing the passion of organizations helping Foothills residents and lending a helping hand, she said.
“We helped teens last time with Cameron Crossing, this time we get to help seniors. We’re really able to help different areas of our community,” said Boake. “We’ve helped so many different organizations, it’s really nice to learn about them and diversify.
The next meeting of 100 Women Who Care Foothills is in November.
For more information visit www.okotoks100.com
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