Samaritan Caregivers Promotes Volunteerism to Help Seniors
Writer / Matt Keating
Photographer / Jason Graves
In today’s stressful world, everyone could use some help, especially senior citizens, and Samaritan Caregivers is rising to the occasion to help older people.
Jamey Henderson, executive director of Samaritan Caregivers, 2705 S. Berkley Road, Kokomo, says Samaritan is a grassroots organization that promotes volunteerism to help senior citizens at home.
When Henderson took the position, immediately following the September 11, 2001 attacks, several people told her it was not a good career move.
“They believed most charitable contributions would go to New York,” Henderson says. “However, I felt that given the opportunity, people would continue to support local causes that had a positive impact on their family, friends and neighbors.”
Henderson says that she has been blessed with skills, staff, volunteers and deep and lasting relationships with many community partners to establish Samaritan Caregivers as a lifeline for seniors aging in place.
“Many older people have no one to rely on and can’t afford to pay for assistance,” she says. “Our volunteers provide free help to people 65 and over, living at home in Howard County. In 2020, we served nearly 300 seniors.”
Henderson says no special training is required.
“Just be yourself,” she says. “There are many ways to get involved. You can drive someone to an appointment. Get groceries for them, or go to the food pantry. Send a friendly card. Complete a simple home repair.”
Henderson adds that it’s a great way for families or groups to get involved, as well as students, schools, churches, organizations, and clubs.
“It’s easy to sign up at samaritancaregivers.org,” she says. “Our current volunteer needs are shoppers, handymen and drivers (especially during winter months when many volunteers go to warmer climates),” she says. “Things get solved when you get involved.”
Henderson says it always helps to support independence in the senior community.
“According to the US HRSE (Health Resources and Services Administration), nearly one out of three older Americans now live alone, and the health effects are mounting, creating a ‘loneliness epidemic,’” Henderson says. “Loneliness and social isolation are more dangerous than obesity and can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The problem is particularly acute among seniors, especially during holidays.”
“Volunteers provide critical assistance to seniors who have few resources, financial or relational,” she says. “Often, just a little bit of help will make it possible for people to remain in their homes, which is where they want to stay as long as possible.”
Henderson adds that being involved with Samaritan Caregivers can make all the difference in the world.
“Our volunteers drive seniors to see the doctor and get a prescription, call to check on them, bring groceries, send a card, or fix a leaky faucet,” she says. “All of this helps them know that someone cares.”
Samaritan Caregivers offers transportation to appointments and errands, home visits, limited due to the pandemic, phone calls, grocery assistance and more.
“There is also an Adopt-A-Grandparent program, with students, individuals, and groups-in classroom or web-based,” Henderson says. “They can also send a card monthly.”
Samaritan Caregivers also needs handymen with occasional simple repairs, Medicare counseling (with seniors of any age and their family members); and a Senior Medicare Patrol (to protect, detect, and report Medicare fraud).
Samaritan Caregivers’ Food Pantry is especially valuable these days.
“Samaritan Caregivers has an arrangement with several local pantries with pre-qualifying seniors served by our organization,” Henderson says. “This allows our volunteers to stop in monthly for a senior who no longer drives. Normally, people must go to the food pantry to receive the food. We address food insecurity among elderly homeowners by linking them to these items. This service was paused during the pandemic, when most pantries were closed due to limited supplies and volunteers, but is resuming with pantries that have re-opened, and are well-stocked.”
The personal shopping has also come in handy.
“Prior to the pandemic, Samaritan Caregivers volunteers drove 2,500 riders a year, primarily to medical appointments and for shopping,” Henderson says. “When seniors were advised to shelter in place, this had a devastating effect on those served. We began receiving calls from our elderly friends who had very little food in their homes. Staff gave out items we had been using for bingo prizes, then bought things to make sure no one was hungry. Thanks to caring community partners like Duke Energy, the Community Foundation, and NIPSCO, grant money for emergency groceries provided vital assistance.Younger volunteers who felt safe shopping, picked up a gift card and store list, shopped and dropped off items.”
Samaritan Caregivers currently has a contract with the City of Kokomo for a continuation of that assistance to provide groceries for seniors who don’t drive.
“Forty seniors phone in their grocery list each month, volunteers stop by the office, pick up a list, and get a gift card for Kroger, Meijer, or Aldi, then shop and deliver items to elderly homeowners,” Henderson says. “This has helped ensure that older people living at home have access to groceries and household items while sheltering in place.”
Samaritan Caregivers also assists seniors with navigating the Medicare system.
“Most of us find the subject of Medicare complicated and confusing,” Henderson says. “Samaritan Caregivers has a team who have completed an intensive 24-30 hour training course and are certified by the Indiana Department of Insurance. Regular training keeps them current with recent changes in Medicare and other health care insurance options.
“We don’t sell anything,” Henderson says. “This is a free counseling service. We give qualified, objective and free assistance to Medicare beneficiaries who have concern with or questions about their health insurance.”
Henderson says it is exactly the information people need to make informed decisions about their health care dollars.
“There are also money-saving programs for people with Medicare who qualify, and our team can answer questions about eligibility and assist with filing an application,” she says. “To schedule your appointment, call the Samaritan Caregivers office, at 765-453-7611. Phone appointments are also available.”
Open Enrollment is October 15 – December 7.
Samaritan Caregivers is well-known for their annual Chocolate Celebration, sponsored by J. Edwards Gourmet.
“Due to the pandemic, the event was postponed this year, from the usual February date, until May,” she says. “It was a huge success, raising $23,000 to give help and hope to seniors. The new May date was so popular that next year’s event, the 20th Chocolate Celebration is scheduled for Friday, May 7, 2022.”
To get involved or find out more, the Samaritan Caregivers office is located at 2705 S. Berkley Road, Suite 3C in Kokomo. For more information, call 765-453-7611 or visit them online at samaritancaregivers.org.