March 2, 2011

Legacy Corps: Services Available, Volunteers Needed

Submited By Pam Berenger
Community Liason, Intouch Adult Day Services

Leonard Dorothy’s smile says what his voice can’t.

Mention the name of his friend, Legacy Corps volunteer Allison Elfline, and his smile speaks volumes. The pair became fast friends since being introduced about a year ago and they meet every Wednesday morning for a few hours.

Leonard Dorothy and Allison Elfline share a laugh during one of the Wednesday morning visits. Allison meets with Leonard through Intouch Adult Day Services of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois’ Legacy Corps program.

“It’s a wonderful thing for someone to give up their time for someone they don’t know,” Marsha Dorothy, Leonard’s wife said. “It gives him some one on one time with someone other than me. That socialization is so important. She had just the right personality for Len and they became good friends. It was the perfect match.”

Coming up with a “perfect match” is what Paula Sims, Social Service Coordinator at Intouch Adult Day Services of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) in Moline, hopes to achieve. Part of Paula’s responsibilities is to recruit, train and link Legacy Corps volunteers with those who need services.

Legacy Corps is a volunteer program that combines lifelong learning with community service. LSSI is one of two agencies in Illinois and one of only 12 agencies in the United States selected to participate in the Legacy Corps, which is managed by the University of Maryland. This program specifically uses the skills, experiences and talents of volunteers to provide respite to caregivers and companionship to clients.

The hours Allison spent with Len did give Marsha some respite – time for shopping or running errands, but more importantly it provided companionship for Leonard.

“He was glad not to have to go, and he was happy for the company,” Marsha said with a laugh.

“Legacy Corps volunteers are essentially friendly visitors that allow the caregiver to have a break,” Paula said. “Even though the volunteers do not perform any medical care or housekeeping services, their presence can provide a much needed breather to the caregiver.”

It provided Leonard with the chance to enjoy a morning of playing dominoes, cards and other games. During their visits Allison and Leonard also work on speech exercises. Leonard has aphasia and apraxia. While alert, oriented and willing to talk, a brain injury a few years ago affected his ability to communicate verbally.

The exercises were an opportunity to share successes and failures.

“One morning he looked so frustrated,” Allison said. “He knew exactly what he wanted to say, but just couldn’t get it out. It was one of those moments when we recognized that it was not big deal. At least he was alive.”

“I love doing it,” Allison said. “It has changed who I am. Volunteering is a wonderful way for me to share my life experiences, but more importantly they share theirs.”

Legacy Corp volunteer opportunities are offered to people 55-years-old and over, however, younger people like Allison are accepted into the program. Legacy Corps volunteers provide in-home, non-medical care to older adults to enable them to remain independent in their own communities and to provide relief to their primary caregivers for up to four hours per week. Services may include preparing light meals or snacks, driving the individual to doctor appointments or shopping, and engaging in other activities that do not require the skills or services of medical, therapeutic or other licensed professionals

Volunteers receive about 20 hours of training before they are put into the field. For their time, volunteers receive a bi-weekly stipend, totaling $2,000 for the year, to cover related expenses – such as transportation – and a $1,450 educational voucher upon completion of the year’s service. Volunteers must commit to serve 450 hours during the year. Families receive respite care based on availability of volunteer services.

If you are interested in either volunteering as a Legacy Corps member or receiving the services for yourself or a loved one, please call Paula at (309) 797-0200. The deadline to enroll as a volunteer for this year is March 15. Requests for care by a volunteer are accepted anytime throughout the year.

Pam Berenger is Community Liaison at Intouch Adult Day Services, 4011 Avenue of the Cities, Suite 102, Moline, IL 61265. She can be reached at (309) 797-0200 ext. 304.