Volunteer helps complete 'Friendship Circle'
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Mon., Mar. 4, 2013
The Friendship Circle – a social and recreational program designed for Glastonbury seniors with special needs – operates four days a week at the Riverfront Community Center. Those who take part say the program effectively works to bridge the gap between independent senior programs and a higher level of supervised care.
The day's activities are planned by Recreation Therapist Kathy Peak, but she also enlists the help of several volunteers. Eileen Kelly has been one of those volunteers for the past seven years.
Kelly, who also helps at the senior center by editing the monthly newsletter and decorating for special events, regularly attends to the seniors' needs with simple things, such as helping them put on their coats, but also in creating crafts or playing games.
“Some of them need more help than others,” Kelly said. “I help set up the activities, or whatever Kathy wants me to do, but it's mostly helping them in the activities when they need it. They thank you, and they appreciate having the help.”
Kelly also brings in flowers and plants, and tells stories. “I tell stories wherever I go,” she said, adding that she feels like she enables Peak to concentrate on running the day's activities and administrating the program, but also that she gives the seniors' care-givers and families the opportunity to know that their loved one is being taken care of.
“It gives them that many hours when they know their people are safe, they are doing something and socializing,” she said.
Charlene Mixter's mother, Lucy Dombek, has been a participant in the Friendship Circle for about as long as Kelly has volunteered.
Mixter said the program has been very socially beneficial for her mother, who is 92 and has lost many friends. She said that her mother also has more energy after a day's interaction with her “circle” friends.
“If she didn't go, she would not be here right now,” Mixter said. “She's got a lot more energy [on those days]. Just getting up and going on Tuesdays kick-starts everything for her again.”
Mixter said sometimes elderly folks have decreased appetite later in the day, but Dombek eats dinner much better on the days when she attends the program. She also gives much of the credit for the program's success to Kelly.
“Eileen is a sweetie and helps a lot,” Mixter said. “She's an avid gardener and brings in flowers for them, and is a real, down-to-earth type of person – warm and friendly, and that makes a big difference to people.”
Kelly said helping out is simply part of who she is. “I like to do,” she said. “It's hard for me to not help. I like to be around people. I've always done something to volunteer. I also have this thing where I try to do a good deed every day. Sometimes it's just a phone call to someone, or helping someone in the grocery store who needs help. There are lots of opportunities for us to help one another. I don't feel like I should, I just want to.”
To register for the Friendship Circle or for more information, call the Human Services Department at 860-652-7638.