Senior volunteers keep programs going

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 123 views 

Margaret Christensen, education coordinator for the Schmieding Center, says she runs the Bella Vista Health Resource Center with the help of roughly 30 volunteers – and the average age is 80.

In the past 12 months, these Bella Vista volunteers have logged 4,220 hours of service for more than 2.430 people.

Funded by the Arkansas Aging Initiative – part of the tobacco settlement – Christensen said the not-for-profit organization also subsists with donations and sponsorships, but it’s the core of volunteers that make those dollars stretch as needed.

Christensen, like other health professionals worry what’s in-store for funding and health care quality in the wake of Obamacare implementation at a time when seniors are a rapidly growing demographic.

Alma Meyer stopped by Wednesday morning (Feb. 20) to have her blood pressure checked and enjoyed a visit with Christensen about mutual acquaintances they discovered they knew in Chanute, Kansas.

Meyer gets her hearing aid adjusted and a hearing test each month at the resource center in addition to regular blood pressure checks and the conversation is also nice she said.

Christensen, a retired registered nurse and college professor, said the center provides a wide range of services that includes health screenings, referrals, classes on family caregiving as well as virtual dementia.

The Schmieding Center home base is located in Springdale with the smaller outreach center in Bella Vista. A partnership of the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) and Northwest Health System, the Schmieding Center addresses the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and lifestyle needs of older adults with care, compassion and competency.

“I have been volunteering here for the past 10 years and I enjoy the work and conversations with people we serve,” said Dorothy Kropp-Henke.

At 85, Kropp-Henke,says volunteering is therapeutic and she finds the center’s library of books and videos a wonderful resource on everything from aging gracefully to grief management.

Once a month the center co-sponsors a "Lunch & Learn" session with free sandwiches and a guest speaker from the local medical community.

The center also offers a monthly meeting where a local professional shares information such as funeral planning, drug interactions, pain management and financial wellness.

“We just try to make sure the local senior citizens have access to all the information they may need,” Christensen said.

The center sponsors two large events each year, a health fair in the Fall and a senior services expo each Spring.

“Last year we served about 1,500 people at our health fair. It is always well attended and I have about 30 volunteers who help with that event,” Christensen said.

She said Bella Vista is a unique place for seniors, many of whom have been on an extended 25-year vacation.

“We are a bridge for many of them during that time, most often they will return home — to the Midwest or wherever their kids are — at some point in time. But we are here for them as long as they need us,” Christensen said.

She said the Outreach Center is centrally located with NorthWest Arkansas Community College Bella Visa campus downstairs along with the Village House Senior Day Care Center, largely run by senior volunteers as well.

“It’s not uncommon for us to refer seniors back and forth,” she added.

Christensen said she is active and teaches a couple of classes at the NWACC center. One of the more popular has been “How to buy and sell on eBay.” she said.

Carol Moyor of Bella Vista has been volunteering at the Senior Day Care center for the past four years since retiring here from Kansas City in 2008.

“I volunteer here two days a week and I am also a volunteer guide at the Peel Mansion in Bentonville. Between these two causes I stay pretty busy,” Moyor said. “I’m amazed at the interesting people I meet visiting the Peel Mansion. Especially since the opening of Crystal Bridges, people from all over the world have begun touring the Peel,”

Don Kerr retired to Bella Vista eight years ago from Iowa and immediately began volunteering. He has settled in at the front desk for NWACC at the Bella Vista center,

“I stay really busy between volunteering at this center and my work with Helping Hands charity and volunteering at guest services for the Bentonville Hospital — NW Health System,” Kerr said.

Kerr said he donates about 25 hours a week to the three volunteer efforts he’s engaged in.

“It’s good for my marriage,” Kerr said with a laugh.

He said his wife Mildred is also an active volunteer with Helping Hands and Washington Regional Hospital.

Christensen said the Schmieding Center is committed to being a senior resource for healthy living in the second half of life.