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Senior volunteers wanted

Posted: Wednesday, August 11, 2004

In his Anchorage office, Don Murray has pins dotting a map of Alaska.

The state director of the National Senior Service Corps said he is looking to stick a couple more in Juneau.

The pins represent volunteers. Although the organization no longer has the funding for a full-time Juneau coordinator, a part-time coordinator who started Monday will look to recruit more people to serve as "foster grandparents."

The new coordinator, Christy Long, said she first plans to meet with the local seniors working in the program. Murray has sent a letter to the participants to let them know of the changes, she added.

Juneau's former program coordinator, Andrea Doll, said the volunteers make a difference. Simply playing cards with someone at the Juneau Pioneers' Home may be the highlight of the week for the person getting the visit, she said.

"I think it's a wonderful program," Doll said.

The organization has eight foster grandparents and 11 senior companions serving in Juneau, along with 26 retired senior volunteers, Murray said.

The Retired Service Volunteer Program participants have a higher profile because they often work in public places, he said.

The others do more one-on-one volunteer work. Those positions come with stipends to supplement the income of volunteers who qualify financially, so the jobs depend on funding, he said. Eligible foster grandparents and senior companions receive $2.65 an hour, exempt from tax.

The foster grandparents are seniors who work with youths.

"Some help problem readers learn to read," Murray said. Or a volunteer may speak Tlingit and want to help a young person learn the language, he added.

Senior companions visit with other seniors, and that seems to be a more popular program, Murray said. On Tuesday he had nine statewide positions for foster grandparents that could be funded - compared to a waiting list of people interested in volunteering as senior companions. Where those positions go around the state more or less depends on where the volunteers and needs emerge, he said.

Long, a two-year Juneau resident, previously lived in Haines and worked as a home health care social worker. During that time she got to know some people in Juneau.

Those interested in the National Volunteer Service Corps can call her office at 790-2550.

Murray said the program does more than supplement incomes for people who have retired.

"If your retirement is good, you don't need $250 or $300 a month," he said.

He sees the program re-energizing older residents who find a renewed purpose in volunteering. That's in addition to the people they're helping, he said.

"There's a lot of folks at the Pioneers' Home who never get a visitor," he said.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.



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