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Allan’s Companions program brings friendship to homebound seniors

(ROCKWALL, TX — June 27, 2018) Meals on Wheels Senior Services of Rockwall County (MOWSS) rolled out a new program this year bringing companionship to isolated, homebound senior citizens.

The Allan’s Companions program provides the homebound seniors served by MOWSS with regular weekly visits from the program’s trained volunteers, known as companions, in order to decrease social isolation and loneliness. This companionship service promotes seniors’ ability to maintain the highest possible levels of function and improve the quality of life for the aging community.

“Isolation is too often a part of an elderly person’s life and has serious consequences such as declining health and depression,” said MOWSS Executive Director Margie VerHagen. “There are so many potential triggers of isolation – major life transitions, death of spouse, family member or friend. The Allan’s Companions program gives our homebound seniors access to safe social engagement.”

The program was started in March 2018 by Jessica Mena, a current graduate social work student intern from Texas A&M University-Commerce who has been working with Meals on Wheels (MOWSS) for over a year. Under the supervision of MOWSS Case Manager Maureen Cook, Mena realized a long-time agency vision of providing companionship services to homebound seniors in the community.

“I was inspired to help Meals on Wheels develop this program after experiencing first-hand how social isolation and loneliness affect so many clients’ well-being and living conditions,” Mena said. “This companionship program not only gives these seniors someone to share their time with, but also lets them know that their community has not forgotten them.”

“Having served as case manager of MOWSS for the past three years, I have witnessed the need for companionship,” Cook said. “I’m so honored to be able to offer this program to our clients, in hopes to decrease loneliness and depression by forming these new friendships.”

The Allan’s Companions program is named in honor of Jim and Barbara Allan for their dedicated service and support of MOWSS. Jim not only recognized the need for companionship for isolated clients, but always went the extra mile in spending some additional time with them when he delivered meals in previous years.

The program’s staff provides orientation and training to each volunteer. Orientation training consists of a description of the program, application process, volunteer duties and responsibilities, safety measures, and specialized training on topics of mental health in the aging population. Companions are carefully matched to their clients based on their interests and personality through a personal interview. Upon completion of all application and training process, the companions are assigned to their clients and can begin visits immediately.

Companions provide social support with one weekly visit and phone call. The visiting schedule is arranged between the companion and the individual and lasts approximately one to two hours.

To become a Allan’s Companion volunteer, one must:

  • Be able to commit for a minimum of six months.
  • Be able to make at least one weekly home visit and phone call.
  • Be at least 21 years old.
  • Be sensitive towards older adults and persons with disabilities.
  • Pass a criminal background check.
  • Have access to transportation and telephone.
  • Complete volunteer orientation training and a personal interview.

Those interested in participating in this program or finding out more information may email companion@rockwallmealsonwheels.org.

By Austin Wells. Photos courtesy of Meals on Wheels.

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