Herald JournalHerald Journal, Oct. 20, 2003

Faith in Action: volunteer program helps others

By Julie Yurek

Time is a luxury that many people don't have ­ and Brenda Jones of Winsted is one of those people.

Jones is a volunteer in the Faith in Action of Wright County program that is based in Buffalo.

This doesn't stop Jones from cutting a few hours out of her schedule to help shop for groceries as a needed service to a Montrose senior.

Jones is a busy woman, working two part-time jobs and raising a family with her husband, Warren, but she still finds time to help a senior.

About nine hours a month, the equivalent to a work day, is all the little time a volunteer needs to make a difference in the lives of those they help, Jones said.

The program primarily assists the elderly population, but it also helps anyone who needs assistance due to chronic illness or disabilities, said Program Director Michelle Loes. Services are confidential.

Faith in Action took over a volunteer organization called Groceries Plus in St. Cloud. Jones volunteered there a few years ago but since quit.

Her name was found and she received a call asking if she could help a client in Montrose.

"I really didn't have the time, but they had no one else in this area to help this client," Jones said.

Jones takes the woman grocery shopping about once a week or once every two weeks, depending on Jones' schedule, she said. Each time she takes the woman shopping, it's about three hours. She takes her to Buffalo to get groceries.

Besides grocery shopping assistance, Faith in Action offers services such as transportation, light household chores, yard work, visiting, telephone reassurance, and respite care for primary caregivers, Loes said.

When Jones first signed on to help this client, Jones, Loes, and the woman sat down and talked about a schedule. It is understood that volunteers' schedules come first when it comes to volunteering.

Both the woman or Jones will call the other to see what day will work out.

When Jones takes the woman shopping, Jones does her own shopping at the same time, she said. Sometimes Jones' two young daughters accompany them, which delights the woman, Jones said.

Jones has also taken the woman to doctor appointments. However, there is a need for more volunteers to do light housekeeping and visiting, Jones said.

When she is with the woman, Jones incorporates humor and light hearted conversation, and she encourages anyone who is interested in volunteering to do the same. "It's important to make them smile," she said.

Many clients don't get much socializing time outside of the volunteers, Jones said. Also, many clients have family in the area, but don't receive visits or help from them.

Faith in Action is a nationwide program. There are 1,000 programs in the United States, and Minnesota has about 60.

The program began in Wright County in March 2003 with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The program is a coalition of congregations, community organizations, and social agencies, Loes said.

The program has about 40 volunteers, and serves about 40 people in Wright County, she said. "It is a much needed program, especially now due to so many budget cutbacks. Our services are all non-professional; we are basically 'neighbors helping neighbors.'"

"It is our goal to keep peopled living independently in their homes. Many elderly people don't drive anymore and need help getting their groceries or need a ride to the doctor. Some want help with their yard, while others need housekeeping services," Loes said. "Some volunteers pay a weekly visit to an elderly person who is unable to get out and socialize. It's called 'friendly visiting,'" Loes said.

"Volunteers can pick and choose the number of hours a month they would like to volunteer. They can also choose the area they would like to serve, i.e. geography and area of service, such as transportation, shopping assistance, etc.," Loes said.

Anyone interested in volunteering may call Loes at (763) 234-3586. Also, call if a person needs this service, Loes said.

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