Last updated: August 27. 2014 10:13AM - 137 Views
Margaret Brackett Contributing Columnist

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This week Doris J. Gleason, director of Community Research Outreach for AARP in South Carolina, is the guest spokesperson. She will discuss the importance of volunteering and the types of AARP volunteer opportunities available in South Carolina.

Volunteering is important because it connects you with others. The right selection can help you find friends, reach out to the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career. Volunteering can also help protect your mental and physical health. It gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. We all know that helping others kindles happiness.

AARP utilizes volunteers in a myriad of ways — to help us move forward our advocacy agenda, to perform community service work, as speakers and/or presenters to various groups statewide. Volunteers lead AARP’s Driver Safety Program and our Tax-Aide Program, and we currently have 17 trained facilitators around the state presenting a fairly new pilot program titled “Life Reimagined.” Also, our leadership in the state, called our Executive Council, is volunteer based.

The types of volunteer opportunities currently available with AARP South Carolina:

• Legislative volunteers are those that assist in advocating for AARP issue priorities in a variety of ways; meeting with, writing, emailing, and/or telephoning their legislators; conducting community presentations and interviews; and delivering issues information packets and materials. Training sessions on legislative issues are provided.

•Legislative E-Alert volunteers assist in advocating for AARP issue priorities by emailing their state and federal legislators in situations where a vote or other action is imminent and immediate contact is needed. Volunteers receive email updates on the status of legislative priorities and are emailed an E-Alert when follow up is needed. The E-Alert will contain all the necessary information and instructions for the volunteer to craft and send an email to their legislator(s).

• Event Volunteers: AARP-SC often participates in community events like senior expos or health fairs and festivals in order to educate our members and the public on our legislative efforts, programs, services and volunteer opportunities. We look for volunteers to help staff these community outreach efforts statewide.

• Friendly Visitor Program: This program operates under the auspices of the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging. It is managed locally by the Aging Disability Resource Centers.

Statistically, 60 percent of people residing in nursing homes have no family or friends visit them. We also know the average life expectancy for someone in a nursing home is less than three years. The Friendly Visitor Program trains and provides individuals who go out for two to four hours a week to visit these senior citizens.

The program helps patients stay engaged and feel important, connected to the community and validated. There is extensive training before anyone goes into a nursing home setting so that our volunteers know exactly what to expect and how to do the best job. Most volunteers find this to be an affirming, positive, life changing experience.

Life Reimagined: Life Reimagined is a simple and smart approach to rediscovering what is truly important so you can finally discover your “what’s next.” Life Reimagined is all about possibilities – recognizing them, evaluating them, and making them reality. Online and in person, you get expert guidance and resources that fit your individual situation, along with tools and resources including peer support, to help you make the changes to live a happier life.

SC Vulnerable Adult Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Program: The mission of the SCVAGAL program is to advocate for the best interests of abused, neglected, or exploited vulnerable adults in South Carolina Family Court System.

In 2013, in SC, there were over 2,800 reports resulted in adults being abused, neglected or exploited. Over 350 of these reports resulted in court proceedings. The Office for the Study of Aging, in collaboration with other agencies, has developed a program that recruits volunteer Guardian ad Litem to act as unbiased representatives for the best interests of vulnerable adults.

On May 16, 2014, enabling legislation for the SC Vulnerable Adult Guardian ad Litem program was signed into law by Gov. Nikki Hayley. The SC Vulnerable Adult Guardian ad Litem Volunteer Program legislation makes this program part of the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging.

For State Fiscal Year 2014-2015 the SCVAGAL Program is being funded by the SC Department of Human Services and is based out of the office for the Study of Aging, Arnold School of Public Health, and U. of South Carolina. It is the role of the SCVAGAL program to recruit, train, and supervise volunteers to serve as Court-appointed guardian ad Litem for vulnerable adults.

There are 20 SC counties being served and the Program is in process of expanding statewide. As of February 2014, 254 adults were served since 2011. Newberry County is included in the SC counties being served.

For further information contact Doris Gleason, AARP South Carolina, at 803-765-7375 in Columbia.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of nearly 38 million, that helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for the issues that matter most to families and protection from financial abuse.

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