Honored volunteers are more than Senior Companions, they are family

GREENVILLE — Catholic Charities and Bon Secours St. Francis Health System honored volunteer Senior Companions and presented awards at an appreciation lunch Oct. 14.
Jarda Booker received the Senior Companion Volunteer of the Year Award. Booker attends St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville. She has served in the program from its inception providing companionship to an elderly woman who lives alone in poverty, has suffered two strokes, and has no transportation or basic provisions.
According to a press release, Kathy Russ, coordinator for the Senior Companions Program of Catholic Charities Piedmont, said the woman’s strokes left her with a speech disability. She has emotional wounds from a lifetime of abandonment and weeps at the slightest kindness.
“When I first met this senior, I had doubts I would ever be able to match her,” Russ said. “But one volunteer came forward to be her ‘sister,’ not only accepting her lovingly for who she is, but becoming her social advocate, working with a slum lord to improve her rental house, and helping her plant a garden in her yard.”
Joselice, Paul and Anna Wong were named the Senior Companion Family Volunteers of the Year. Russ said the honor is given to a family or married couple who bring sunshine into the life of a lonely senior.
“They have helped plan and host holiday parties for the senior’s independent living facility, even providing live entertainment through their musical gifts,” Russ said. “They helped nurse the senior through a broken leg and lengthy hospital stay, they provided moving assistance when the senior moved to a new facility, and they hosted the senior and her children at their own home for a holiday celebration.”
The Wongs attend St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville and have worked with the program since it began.
Darlene Williams received the Volunteer Senior Companion Rookie of the Year Award. Russ said Williams, a member of St. Mary Magdalene Church in Simpsonville, has gone far beyond the call of duty.
“[Williams] companions a senior with complex health and psychological issues,” Russ said. “She has spent countless hours responding when her senior was ill, beside herself with anxiety and feeling abandoned by her children. She has inspired her senior to dress up and go out, to explore her neighborhood senior center and investigate a number of other support services. She has sat with her senior at the doctor’s office and helped mediate a conversation with her family that led to a formal evaluation, enabling the family to make responsible decisions about the senior’s future care.”
Nancy Pearce received the Senior Companion Administrative Volunteer Award. Pearce was the co-trainer for new volunteer senior companions.
Pearce is a licensed social worker and author of the book, “Inside Alz heim ers” (www.InsideAlzheimers.com).
“[Pearce] has provided exceptional service by using … professional skills or gifts in hospitality to assist the Catholic Charities staff with program administration,” Russ said.
Pearce is probably one of the best-known volunteers although few people realize that she is not paid, according to Russ.
“They know her better as that rare combination of fire and compassion whose own heart motivates others to live from their hearts, to give themselves in a ministry of presence to seniors who might otherwise be alone and forgotten,” Russ said.
“This exceptional volunteer brings her wisdom, her stories, and her vibrant sense of humor to Senior Companions training to create an engaging and memorable experience for new volunteers. Then she helps me wash the dishes and rearrange the furniture in the conference room,” she added.