Center works to boost volunteer caregiving

By Todd Cohen

CARY, N.C. – Every week, volunteers for the Center for Volunteer Caregiving in Cary drive seniors and adults with disabilities in Wake County to doctors, grocery stores and pharmacies, and to government agencies to enroll in programs like Social Security.

Volunteers, who use their own vehicles and are selected by the Center to participate after it screens and assesses them, can use an online calendar to choose assignments that fit their schedules.

The Center spent the last year developing the calendar using Volunteers for Salesforce, a software system for customer-relationship-management, or CRM, that it purchased with $30,000 from a grant it received from GlaxoSmithKline in 2013.

The online calendar is part of a larger effort by the Center to build long-term relationships with volunteers, companies and funders to serve seniors in Wake County, which is home to an estimated 70,000 individuals age 65 and older. By 2030, that population is expected to grow to over 200,000.

The Center was launched in 1992 by 12 churches in Cary and Raleigh with $25,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in New Jersey as part of its national effort to help faith congregations create formal volunteer programs to serve seniors and adults with disabilities. Previously, congregations had provided those programs on an informal basis.

A key goal was for the new programs to use formal screening, background checks and training for volunteers.

Operating with an annual budget of $425,000, the Center employs six people full-time and one-part-time, counts on 350 active volunteers, and serves nearly 800 individuals a year.

In addition to transportation, the Center provides volunteer relief and seminars for caregivers, as well as information and referrals, mainly to home health agencies that can assign substitutes for caregivers who need time off.

And in October, with a $25,000 grant from a family fund at Triangle Community Foundation, the Center launched a pilot program that provides relief once a month for up to 12 caregivers who support individuals with dementia.

Those individuals spend three-and-a-half hours at Genesis United Methodist Church in Cary. Then, through a collaboration between the Center and the five Rotary clubs in Cary, the individuals spend another two hours for dinner and entertainment at the “Memory Cafe,” a program at the town’s Senior Center.

With rising demand for its services, the Center for Volunteer Caregiving is working to increase the number of its active volunteers to 500 from 350.

To help do that, it has posted on its website a four-minute video produced by Blueforest Studios in Raleigh in its second annual pro-bono effort.

Lynn Templeton, executive director at the Center, says effective support for caregivers depends on cultivating long-term relationships.

This year, for example, the Center is getting $15,000 from Raleigh insurer Genworth, which for the past 15 years has provided it with annual grants ranging from $5,000 to $25,000.

George Reichert, chief information officer at Genworth and a member of the Center’s board of directors, led the effort to develop the online volunteer calendar.

The Center’s 14-member board also includes executives from Eisai, Quintiles, John Deere and WakeMed, as well as local attorneys.

“When we get to know companies,” Templeton says, “I try to start by involving them as volunteers, then try to get invited to apply through their grant process, then try to leverage excellent board members.”

Long-term relationships also are critical for effective volunteering, she says.

“We need volunteers who can invest in a relationship that is going to help alleviate loneliness and depression” on the part of seniors and adults with disabilities, she says. “There’s something to be gained on both sides.”

Helping kids fly to get medical treatment

By Todd Cohen

MORRISVILLE, N.C. — In the last 10 years, children who were seriously ill or injured but faced hurdles getting to medical facilities have received 1,500 free flights, thanks to Children’s Flight of Hope, a nonprofit in Morrisville.

“Travel to treatment is often an overlooked component of getting children the care they need,” says Staci Barfield, the group’s executive director. “Insurance doesn’t pay for   the travel of the children we serve. If we didn’t provide these flights, they’d forego or postpone treatment until their families could raise the money, which could be too late.”

Formed in 1991 by Al Wethington, a Durham pilot and businessman, Children’s Flight of Hope operates with a full-time staff of four people and an annual budget of $821,000, plus in-kind support valued at about $500,000, mainly in the form of flights that companies and American Airlines donate.

It also counts on 150 active volunteers who mainly work on three annual events that net a total of about $360,000. The group gets the rest of its funds from individuals and corporations, plus some grant support.

It pays for most of its flights. This year, through October, it spent $154,000 on commercial flights and $87,000 on private flights.

Through November 11, it had provided 408 flights for 127 families, and expects to have provided 500 flights by the end of the year.

Until this past April, flights had been limited to children living or needing to get to medical facilities east of the Mississippi River. The biggest share of the children are traveling to or from destinations in North Carolina.

And thanks to a one-year partnership it formed in April with American Airlines, American now is letting the nonprofit use for its own clients two million miles of flights donated to the airline. In return, Children’s Flight of Hope will handle eight million miles of charity flights American routes to Children’s Flight of Hope.

The nonprofit developed that partnership in the wake of $151,000 in seed money it received in 2015 from the CAPCommunity Foundation, the charitable arm of CAPTRUST Financial Advisers in Raleigh, to expand its geographic reach.

Now, Children’s Flight of Hope is considering the creation of hubs in 10 other markets throughout U.S., plus the Triad and Charlotte, Barfield says.

Developing the hubs will depend on interest in each market among local volunteers, funders and companies, she says.

The nonprofit also continues to focus on meeting the needs of North Carolina children. Seeing that children from the coastal area were not participating, the staff approached The Eshelman Foundation in Wilmington, which provided a $15,000 grant to meet the travel needs of children from the three counties the Foundation serves.

Since 2014, Children’s Flight of Hope also has raised about $400,000 through a campaign known as “Join Our Crew” that focuses on recruiting “recurring” donors who make a commitment to make an annual gift for a number of years.

Three donors each have made pledges to give $20,000 a year for five years.

The nonprofit mainly flies children to pediatric speciality centers for a broad range of illnesses, including rare “orphan” diseases for which research and treatment are not supported by institutional programs or organizations.

“The treatments we’re sending them to,” Barfield says, “are going to save, prolong or dramatically improve the quality of their lives.”

Diaper Bank focuses on families in need

By Todd Cohen

DURHAM, N.C. — Packed into a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Durham are two million disposable diapers that individuals and diaper companies have donated to the Diaper Bank of North Carolina, a Durham nonprofit that has distributed over one million diapers to agencies serving low-income families since it began operating in June 2013.

A second warehouse houses another million diapers for the nonprofit, which distributes over 100,000 diapers a month to 22 agencies in Durham, Orange and Alamance counties.

It also operates a branch on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem that distributes 45,000 diapers a month to 18 agencies in eight counties in the Triad, and a branch in Wilmington that distributes 5,000 diapers a month in four counties.

It recently agreed to take over from The Diaper Train, a program of Saint Saviour’s Center in Raleigh, the distribution of 60,000 diapers a month to 12 agencies in Wake County.

In 2017, the Diaper Bank expects to distribute a total of over 2 million diapers to its partner agencies.

And once it builds its current branches into sustainable operations, it will consider adding a branch to address demand in western North Carolina.

“We work through nonprofits that work with families living in poverty,” says Michelle Old, founder and executive director of the Diaper Bank. “It is our goal in every county we serve to have an open source of diapers for residents of that county.”

The critical need for diapers among low-income people is under-appreciated, says Old, a long-time advocate working to protect women from violence, who launched the Diaper Bank in January 2013.

With a child who as an infant had severe diaper rashes, requiring frequent visits to the hospital and 15 to 20 diaper changes a day, she says, she made it her mission to make sure families that could not afford them had access to free diapers.

An estimated one in three families in the U.S. experience the need for diapers. And working families account for 73 percent of families that receive diapers the Diaper Bank distributes to its partner agencies, with each adult holding one to two jobs, according to a 2015 a study for the Diaper Bank by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

“We are dealing mostly with working families and they cannot afford basic needs for their children,” Old says. “And every time, they’ll choose feeding their children over diapers, and make those diapers last longer.”

Operating with an annual budget of $150,000, plus $450,000 worth of in-kind support, the Diaper Bank employs one person working full-time and three working part-time, including Old.

It counts on 250 volunteers a month at its Durham branch, 20 a month at its Triad branch, and 30 to 40 a month at its Wilmington branch.

The Diaper Bank depends on donations from individuals to support its operations, and raises $22,000 at each of two children’s consignment sales it holds April and October.

It gets 30 percent of its diapers from community donations and drives, and the rest from diaper companies. Those include Huggies through the National Diaper Bank Network, and a partnership with Domtar Personal Care, a diaper-maker in Greenville with corporate offices in Research Triangle Park that also provides volunteers.

The Diaper Bank rewraps all the donated diapers and counts on community donations for sizes not included in the bulk donations from diaper companies.

It also distributes feminine-hygiene products, as well as diapers for seniors with incontinence who are living in poverty.

And in a pilot project supported by the Community Care Fund at Duke University, it provides potty-training classes in English and Spanish, as well as transportation to the classes, child care during the classes, and a “potty,” pull-ups and a book to read to children while sitting on the potty.

In partnership with UNC-Greensboro, the Diaper Bank conducts ongoing research and works through its partner agencies to connect diaper recipients with programs and services that can address other needs the families may have.

“We’re not just giving them diapers,” Old says. “We’re connecting them with programs that can help them in multiple ways to become self-sustaining.”

Local refugees focus of Carrboro nonprofit

By Todd Cohen

CARRBORO, N.C. — Orange County is home to an estimated 1,300 refugees, mainly from Burma and Thailand, and more recently from Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with about 15 new refugees arriving every month.

For those refugees, coping with their new community can be tough.

They typically have fled from horrific conditions ranging from government persecution and civil war to genocide and ethnic cleansing, says Madison Hayes, executive director of Refugee Community Partnership in Carrboro, a nonprofit that works to provide them with support and connect them to information and resources.

Refugees often do not speak English, lack documentation of their previous education or work, are not familiar with U.S. social systems, and are disconnected from community resources, she says.

The result, she says, is “chronic isolation” that typically results in or reinforces persistent poverty, mental-health problems and exclusion from opportunities, particularly access to higher education, jobs, health and human services, health care, and insurance.

The Refugee Community Partnership was founded in 2011 by Asif Khan, then an undergraduate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who worked at the Human Rights Center, a local nonprofit that served “marginalized communities,” mainly Latinos and refugees in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, Hayes says.

In 2011, the Partnership merged with the Center, and this fall Khan enrolled in medical school at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Operating with an annual budget of $30,000, a half-time executive director, interpreters who work under contract, and over 70 volunteers, the Partnership offers a range of programs for refugee families, students and women.

In its main program, teams of two volunteers each visit 42 families in their homes each week, working collaboratively with the families to find solutions to challenges they identify, such as learning English, finding better housing or navigating the community.

A second program matches about 30 undergraduate students at UNC-Chapel Hill one-on-one with a total of 42 students at Chapel Hill High School and East Chapel Hill High School.

The UNC students serve as academic mentors, helping with tutoring, homework, studying for exams, and charting a path to graduation and college. The students in each high school also meet once a week in a club with volunteer facilitators from the Partnership to practice collective decision-making, critical thinking and self-advocacy.

Through a collaboration with Durham nonprofit Farmer Foodshare, the Partnership is the recipient of fresh local produce donated by farmers and consumers at a “Donation Station” at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. The Partnership then provides that food to over 130 individual refugees a week.

In the first nine months, it received 8,000 pounds of donated fresh produce for the refugees it serves.

The Partnership also supports two groups of about six women each, with one that meets once a week and the other once a month ind homes of its members on a rotating basis.

The groups talk about issues such as domestic violence and mental health that refugee women often are reluctant to discuss or may not understand, and about how to find services and resources to address those issues, Hayes says.

To help them overcome fear they may have about public or crowded spaces, the Partnership also hosts a community outing every three months for refugee families to destinations such as the Carrboro Farmers’ Market or the UNC-Chapel Hill campus

It hosts about three workshops a year on topics such as the Department of Motor Vehicles, road laws, driving, mental health, college readiness and tax preparation.

It plans within the next year to double — to 100 and 140, respectively — the number of families it serves and the number of volunteers who work with them.

It also plans to make the position of executive director full-time, add a full-time position for a program coordinator, and triple its annual budget.

And it plans within six months to launch a new program to plug refugee entrepreneurs into a collaborative network it has developed among local service providers, businesses, experts, policymakers and other organizations that can help them start new businesses.

“A number of women in our program are housekeepers at UNC, the graveyard shift, and don’t make enough to make ends meet, but back in their home country they were restaurant owners, culinary professionals,” says Hayes, who also works as project director at The Food Mint, a consulting firm in Chapel Hill.

She says the Partnership looks for creative solutions that use existing resources to address challenges refugees face.

While the languages of refugees from Burma and Thailand are oral, for example, local agencies often promote their services by posting printed flyers in community locations. So the Partnership works with over 10 agencies to make voice recordings in the language of refugees of the information on those flyers, and then plays the recordings for the families it visits.

“Our work is not to duplicate what already exists,” Hayes says, “but to connect refugees with resources in ways that are culturally sensitive and socially strengthening.”

A Lotta Love makes over rooms in shelters

By Todd Cohen

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Two years ago, a friend suggested that Charlotta Sjoelin donate some pillows to HomeStart, a homeless shelter for women and children operated by the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service in Chapel Hill.

When she dropped off 20 pillows at the shelter, Sjoelin was taken aback by the bleakness of the rooms, which had bare walls and contained little more than metal bunkbeds with mattresses, worn-out bedding and towels, and dressers.

The experience inspired Sjoelin, an interior designer, to remake a bedroom in the shelter “so it feels like a home,” she says.

She bought and donated new bedding, pillows, decorative pillows, blankets, curtains and curtain rods, rugs, side tables, towels, shower curtains, bathroom shelves, shower products, wall art, a mirror, small decorative items, and an alarm clock — all for $500.

That effort led her to launch a program to recruit other donors and volunteers to remake other rooms in the shelter.

Initially called Donate A Room, A Lotta Love operates with its own advisory board and also supports emergency and homeless shelters run by Families Moving Forward in Durham, and Haven House Services and InterAct, both in Raleigh.

Supporting its partnership with Interact is a new chapter in Wake Forest of A Lotta Love. The organization also is developing plans to partner with Urban Ministries of Durham.

An all-volunteer group, A Lotta Love has enlisted about 200 volunteers and in its first year served nearly 130 women, nearly 170 children and 300 families.

At a cost of roughly $500 per room, it has provided about $120,000 worth of makeovers, including bedrooms, living rooms, teen rooms and playrooms, plus a flower and vegetable garden, and a playground.

A Lotta Love has developed partnerships with Lowe’s, World Market, IKEA and Sherwin Williams, all of which have donated products, and with Whitsell Consulting, Cisco and Spoonflower, all of which have provided volunteers and donated funds or products.

“We provide all the information you need to donate and do your own room,” says Sjoelin. “Anyone can lend a hand and be part of their donation.”

A Lotta Love provides donors with a one-page summary of the products and materials they can donate to a room in a shelter, including a description of the family, and the gender, ages and special interests of the children.

Often fueled by poverty or domestic violence, homelessness in the region is a serious problem, Sjoelin says, and the women, children and families staying in emergency and long-term shelters typically have jobs or are enrolled in school.

“When you walk into a shelter, you’ve basically lost everything, you’ve hit rock bottom,” she says.

“We don’t talk about making it beautiful,” she says. “We talk about respect and dignity and showing them that we care, that we believe in them, and giving them a place they can stay for a longer period of time to build themselves up. We’re creating a home away from home.”

New heart and vascular hospital at Rex

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Before Rex Hospital moved in 1980 to its campus on Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh from the building it had occupied since 1937 at St. Mary’s Street and Wade Avenue, it raised $4 million in a capital campaign to develop the new campus.

In the past two years, the Rex Healthcare Foundation has generated $8.6 million in cash and pledges in the quiet phase of capital campaign to raise $10 million to help finance construction of a new Heart and Vascular Hospital.

The $235 million, eight-story, 114-bed facility, set to open in March, will consolidate services now spread among seven locations on the campus.

Now, the Foundation is kicking off the public phase of the campaign, its first since 1980. After focusing on “leadership” gifts of $50,000 or more in the quiet phase and generating donations from about 200 donors, the public phase will focus on smaller gifts, particularly those from individuals and families.

The campaign also has enlisted new donors who previously had not contributed to the annual fund at UNC Rex. In the fiscal year ended June 30, the annual fund raised nearly $2.4 million.

The public phase also aims to net at least $100,000 from the annual Rex Gala on November 12 at the Raleigh Convention Center.

In addition to philanthropic contributions, UNC Rex will use reserves and bonds to finance the new facility.

Chairing the campaign is Tift Mann, a retired cardiologist from Wake Heart and Vascular, now North Carolina Heart and Vascular, a Raleigh-based practice of about three-dozen cardiologists that is the largest in Wake County.

It joined UNC Rex Healthcare in 2011 and serves Wake and eight other counties, mainly south and east of Wake.

UNC Rex Healthcare, formed in 2000 through the merger of Rex and UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill, has seen growing demand for heart and vascular services, says Alan Wolf, manager of media relations at UNC Rex.

Fueling the rising demand, he says, was a spike in referrals after the merger with North Carolina Heart and Vascular, and after UNC Health Care’s affiliation with hospitals in other counties, as well as the region’s booming population and emergence as a destination for retirees and aging boomers.

It also is getting referrals from hospitals not affiliated with the UNC Health Care system. In 2015 alone, 1,804 cardiovascular-related patients were transferred to UNC Rex from hospitals in eight other counties.

Amy Daniels, director of the Rex Healthcare Foundation, says the consolidation of heart and vascular services in the new 306,000-square-foot facility will make it easier for for patients to get the care they need, and for medical staff to provide it.

The new facility also has been designed to foster efficiency and innovation, she says.

Rather than sharing elevators, for example, families and visitors will use public elevators, while hospital caregivers and staff transporting patients will use clinical elevators, including two that can accommodate patients and trauma equipment and teams of up to 20 people.

The hospital will give tracking devices to patients it will use to track their location and analyze efficiency and the flow of patients flow through the facility.

Patients will be able to use the televisions in their rooms and modules assigned by their physicians to learn about their procedures and about topics such as rehabilitation, healthy diet changes and smoking cessation.

And a training facility to be located in conference space known as the Center for Innovation and Learning will include a simulation lab — equipped with devices such as mannequins and computer-generated models — that physicians, vendors and clinicians can use to learn from and teach one another.

The conference space, which will include a demonstration kitchen, also will be used for classes focusing on wellness and prevention, including topics such as healthy eating.

“The goal is to keep people out of the hospital,” Wolf says. “We’re really hoping the facility will be a place where people can come before they get sick to learn how not to get sick.”