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.”