Exchange Clubs, as part of their overall commitment to community service are encouraged to reach out to older Americans. There are numerous projects that enable your club to make a lasting and important difference in the lives of your community’s seniors. Two such programs are the Calling Card program and the Santa for Seniors program. These projects are easy to implement and either (or both) is an excellent way to promote your club services within your community.
The Calling Card program is easy to implement and keep going. This simple, effective program enables Exchange Club members to provide daily or weekly phone calls to older persons. In many cases, a brief phone call can make a world of difference to a solitary man or woman who feels neglected or forgotten. Even more importantly, the daily phone calls allow the Exchangite to regularly check on the seniors’ health and safety.
The financial requirements of this program are minimal. However, you should verify that you have allocated funds in the budget for miscellaneous expenses. Obtain commitments from Club members who are interested in participating in this program and ensure they are aware of the time involved. This will be important in determining the number of seniors you agree to serve.
Use a committee to survey the needs of your community by contacting the local Office for Aging, retirement homes, nursing home facilities and home health care agencies. Next, ask for specific names of seniors who would benefit from daily/weekly phone calls.
Before contacting the seniors ask the referral source if they would be willing to assist with the introduction to the program. Cooperation in this area will make program run more smoothly. Obtain the name, address and phone number of each interested senior and if possible, the name and phone number of a neighbor who can be reached, if necessary.
The committee should prepare a spreadsheet of all seniors in the program. The spreadsheet should include all vital information (name phone number, etc.) as well as the Exchangite assigned to the senior. Assign one or more seniors to each Exchangite volunteer and provide them with the information for their senior(s).
Once the members have been matched up, the Exchangite should call, introduce themselves and determine the best time to call. It is also a good idea to find out more about the seniors at that time. While it is important to find out medical information and programs they participate in, do not forget to ask about their personal information. Be aware that you may be limited by HIPPA rules regarding this personal information.
After all the preliminaries have been handled, the Exchangite simply calls the senior each day at the designated time. The daily conversations can be brief and to the point, but if time permits, the member should try to spend some time getting to know the senior and finding areas of common interest.
If the senior does not answer when called, the Exchangite should wait five minutes and try again. If there is still no answer, the designated neighbor should be called and asked to walk over and make sure the senior is all right. Once the Calling Card program is in place, it should continue for as long as possible. Since it requires only minutes a day on the part of each Exchangite, it can and should be a year-round affair. An Exchange Club can take the Calling Card program one step further by presenting the seniors with food baskets or other appropriate gifts at various times of the year, such as Christmas, Easter, or Senior Citizens Month, observed each May.
Ask members to share their experiences with the club. This may result in additional volunteers and will allow for easier transition to additional programs for seniors.
This program is a natural outgrowth of the calling card program but can also be done independently. The main objective is to make the holidays more enjoyable for those seniors whose families are gone or live too far away to spend the holidays with their loved ones.
Determine the funds available for this project are in the budget or conduct a fundraiser specifically for this purpose. Expenses include costs for gifts, cards and/or flowers.
Use a committee contact the local Office for Aging, retirement homes, nursing home facilities and home health care agencies. The nursing homes and home health care agencies often are preparing meals or holding parties where your participation would be greatly appreciated.
This step is usually conducted through an agency that has direct contact with the seniors to be involved. Ensure that you have one contact name at the agency you are working with to facilitate the number of seniors involved.
The committee should coordinate the number of seniors to be served and obtain a list of gift requests. Usually these items are small personal items such as bath lotions or shaving cream. Some may include pajamas or books. If funds are limited you may want to ask your club members to sponsor a senior and bring in a gift.
Determine from the lead agency whether the gifts should be wrapped or unwrapped. If wrapped you may want to hold a special wrapping party with club members. Coordinate the delivery of gifts with the agency.
If approved by the agency, you may receive a list of seniors’ names to personalize holiday greeting cards. Each card should be signed by a club member with the club name underneath. This is a special way to show that you care about that one senior. As an added touch provide a small poinsettia (4” works great) for each senior. If they are in a nursing home, this small plant will fit in their room or on a windowsill easily.
Review the success of the program and outline changes for future years if necessary. This may be especially important in the area of finances.
Invite the agency representative to join your club. This will provide many more opportunities for senior programs in the future.