Mercy Care helps establish new Friendship Volunteer Program

LAKE PLACID – On July 22, the Board and Staff of the new Community Friendship Volunteer Program in Northern Franklin County commissioned seven new Friendship Volunteers.

Mercy Care for the Adirondacks, supported by Eastern Adirondack Healthcare Network, provided the technical assistance and training to develop the new Friendship Volunteer Program. Sr. Catherine Cummings, RSM, Ed.D., R.N. led the training program on behalf of Mercy Care.

The new Friendship Volunteer Program is operating as a program of Community Health Center of the North Country based in Malone. Earlier in the year, Mercy Care facilitated a strategic planning effort among Eastern Adirondack Healthcare Network, Franklin County NY Connects/C.A.R.E.S., and Cerebral Palsy of the North Country, which resulted in the establishment of the Community Friendship Volunteer Program in Northern Franklin County.

Franklin County NY Connects/C.A.R.E.S. is working with the new program to provide the information and referral network to connect the program with elders in need.

“The Board and I are very pleased to expand our services through the addition of a Community Friendship Volunteer Program to meet unmet needs and to develop quality services to meet those needs, which fits with our mission perfectly,” Anne Richey, executive director of Cerebral Palsy of the North Country, said. “We look forward to the opportunity to serve lonely and isolated elders with the informal supports they may need to age in place more successfully.” Ms. Richey introduced and thanked Susan Scott Wilson, retired director of the Franklin County Office for the Aging, and Ona Rushford, retired director of Financial Assistance for Franklin County Department of Social Services, who are volunteering their time to operate the program.

The board of directors of Mercy Care for the Adirondacks included in its strategic plan the extension of its mission beyond the Tri-Lakes region.

“We know that Friendship Volunteer Programs must be community based,” Jerry Hayes, Mercy Care Board president, said. “The Board determined that the best strategy to extend mercy to the aging beyond the Tri-Lakes region is to use the Mercy Care Program Model to provide the technical assistance and training to other communities who want to establish and operate their own Friendship Volunteer Programs.”

“We have long recognized the unmet need for additional home and community based services to help elders delay or prevent the need for skilled nursing home care,” Becky Preve, director of the Franklin County Office for the Aging and NY CONNECTS/C.A.R.E.S., said. “The new community Friendship Volunteer Program will complement the services Franklin County NY Connects coordinates.” Lee Vera, Coordinator of Eastern Adirondack Healthcare Network commented, “EAHCN was delighted to support the training and technical assistance provided by Mercy Care, based on its best practice Friendship Volunteer program model. This new initiative is consistent with our five-year plan to strengthen access to and provision of services and support for our aging population and their caregivers.”

For anyone interested in becoming a Mercy Care Friendship Volunteer to help their elder neighbors in the Tri-Lakes region, the next Mercy Care Friendship Volunteer Training Class will be held on October 21 and 22 in Saranac Lake. Mercy Care now has more than 100 Friendship Volunteers providing volunteer assistance to more than 100 of their elder neighbors. Please call Mercy Care’s Office Manager, Sheila Schneck at 518-523-5583 or contact her by e-mail at sschneck@adkmercy.org , if you would like to register for the training, which is provided free of charge.

Mercy Care for the Adirondacks is a mission sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy to enhance the fullness of life of elders. Mercy Care invites volunteers of all faiths to its Friendship Volunteer Program. Assistance is provided to elders of all faiths. There are no fees for its services. It is supported solely with charitable contributions and grants.