Editor's note: Helping Hands is a Sunday column offering our area nonprofit groups a chance to talk about their work. If your group would like to be considered for participation, email jperry@dlnewspapers.com. This column is by Pam Wellman, site coordinator, Ecumen Detroit Lakes.

Ecumen Detroit Lakes, which is a nonprofit Senior Living Community, serves as the Volunteer Station site for the Ecumen Community Caregiver and Senior Companion Programs. Both of these programs serve the Detroit Lakes and surrounding areas.

We are always in need of volunteers to accommodate those on the waitlist for both programs.

The Senior Companion program provides a stipend to the volunteers along with mileage reimbursement, paid time off, accident and liability insurance and meal stipend. This is all nontaxable to the volunteer. The stipend doesn't affect Social Security benefits, housing subsidies or any other income-based assistance.

Pam Wellman, Ecumen Detroit Lakes
Pam Wellman, Ecumen Detroit Lakes

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Here is a little more information about the programs, for those who would like to become clients or volunteers.

Senior Companion

As part of the Senior Corps network, and under the direction of Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota, the Senior Companion program provides an opportunity for volunteers age 55 to create and maintain ongoing relationships with elderly residents who are isolated in the community. They provide direct support to clients and make a positive impact on their ability to live independently in their communities.

Senior Companions can do what friends and neighbors might do. Our local volunteers do a variety of activities such as take clients shopping, go to medical appointments, car rides around the lakes, walking at the community center, going to lunch or coffee, help with bills and mail correspondence or in-home visits.

We are confident our program helps these adults remain independent in their homes. Without these services many of our clients would need to transition to assisted living or a skilled nursing facility, resulting in increased expense for the senior. The average assisted living cost in Minnesota is $48,000/year and skilled nursing is $109,000/year (per Genworth Financial).

Senior Companion assistance is available to seniors who would be able to continue living independently at home with the help of a weekly friendly visitor.

Community Caregivers/Helping Hands

Community Caregivers is a dedicated network of religious congregations, individuals and community agencies whose purpose is to seek out the frail and elderly people who are living with chronic disabilities.

Mike Hiemenz of Rochert currently oversees the volunteers for this program which assist residents with minor maintenance and home repairs. The volunteers provide the labor while the homeowner covers the cost of the materials.

The United Way of Becker County is a major funding partner for both of these programs. Without their support, it would be difficult if not impossible to maintain the programs.

If you are in need of a Senior Companion/Helping Hand or would like to volunteer as a companion please contact me at 218-844-7153 or PamelaWellman@ecumen.org.