OTISFIELD — Area residents interested in helping their elderly homebound neighbors stay independent are invited to a meeting at 10 a.m. Feb. 6 at the Town Office Annex.
The Otisfield Social Outreach Committee is hosting a presentation on the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension’s Senior Companion Program. Anna Saar, who coordinates the program for Oxford, Androscoggin and Franklin counties, will be the speaker.
“There’s always a need but not always a companion in the area that needs to be served,” Saar said in a telephone interview.
Volunteers receive a small stipend and mileage reimbursement in exchange for spending about 15 to 20 hours a week visiting elderly homebound clients throughout the county.
The program has an average of 121 companions who serve 469 clients throughout the state. In 2013, companions made 24,856 client visits for a total of 76,776 volunteer hours, according to the program’s website.
“Our budget is small, but the need is great,” Saar said. For example, she said, in Oxford County she has only three volunteers with only one in the Paris area.
The mission of the program, according to its website, is to provide meaningful relationships for senior companions, who are age 55 or older, and their clients.
Saar said the visits require nothing more than companionship, but some companions have developed long-term relationships with their clients and in doing so have enhanced their own lives.
“They do develop friendships,” Saar said. “It’s helpful for the companion as well as the client.”
Companions can choose the level of assistance they are comfortable with, Saar said. For example, some volunteers choose to see their clients at noon to help them prepare a lunch and eat with them, others help do dishes.
Companions get together once a month for training and support, she said.
Anyone interested in learning more about the program is invited to the Otisfield meeting. Participants are requested to park in back of the building.
The Otisfield Social Outreach Committee began almost three years ago as a three-month pilot project by the East Otisfield Free Baptist Church. Its purpose is to bring people together to get to know each another. Today, its activities include free lunches, walking groups and sewing circles.