McCarty, Kierstead bolster agency volunteer programs
PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Kathy McCarty of Washburn and Cathy Kierstead of New Sweden have recently joined the Aroostook Agency on Aging as members of the volunteer services team.
McCarty will manage several “Friendly Volunteer” initiatives intended to help relieve social isolation and loneliness for older adults and those with disabilities. As an RSVP Volunteer Coordinator, Kierstead will direct volunteer services in northern Aroostook County.
Judy Anderson, the Aroostook Agency on Aging’s director of community and volunteer services, said McCarty will be able to make an impact for her programs because of her prior experience as a news reporter and her wide knowledge of the region and its people. “Kathy brings an impressive work history in communications and community relations as she has previously worked at The Star-Herald and WAGM-TV. We are very excited to have her join our team,” Anderson said.
McCarty said the Agency’s “Friendly” programs were developed to support disabled and older adults who wish to live well and age well in place. “It is important to allow these individuals to remain at home or with loved ones for as long as possible,” said McCarty.
For example, Friendly Callers are volunteers who provide social interaction with consumers throughout northern Maine. A routine check-in phone call with a consumer is a link to the outside world, especially welcomed during the recent COVID-19 isolation period. That kind voice on the phone often raises the spirits of an older adult who might live a distance from family members.
Friendly Visitors provide in-person companionship and tasks such as assisting with daily living activities, letter writing, opening mail, and reading. Now that COVID vaccines are helping open the doors to in person activities, volunteers will once again go into homes to play cards, talk, read, pick up and sort mail, and help consumers with correspondence.
Friendly Neighbors help serve as the eyes and ears in the community, identifying individuals from a distance who may need services. A neighbor’s overflowing mailbox or piled up newspapers might be a clue to make contact or notify the Agency that help might be needed. Having someone on neighborhood patrol can make a difference in a person’s life.
The Friendly Helpers program matches volunteers with tasks that an older person may not be able to do. Volunteers may be asked to carry pellets, clean a yard or make minor home repairs. Delivering a food/commodity box to a senior who cannot pick it up may be another task.
Friendly Techies are trained to help seniors connect with the outside world using social media and virtual meeting platforms using their own devices or with a loaner iPad from the Agency. Diabetes education, Bingocize, Tai Chi, using Zoom or Facetime and connecting to telehealth are a few of the online services offered through the Internet.
Kierstead joined the Agency in May upon the retirement of Joseph Davis of Fort Kent, who helped grow the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program in the northern region for almost seven years. She said she is excited about recruiting and supporting volunteers and telling the community about RSVP services and programming.
“I’m looking forward to this new challenge, making new friends, and connecting them with solutions. My first site visit to our partner thrift store was a great experience. We did a safety check, spoke with the volunteers, and listened for their suggestions,” Kierstead explained.
Sherry Beaulieu, manager of RSVP and Volunteer Services, said Kierstead’s joyful, down-to-earth personality, and appreciation for volunteering make her a great fit for the Agency’s mission of improving lives by matching community needs with rewarding volunteer experiences. “We feel very fortunate to have Cathy on our team. Her previous employment within the Agency gives her a strong sense of who we are as an organization and an even greater understanding for those we serve through the efforts of volunteerism.”
Aroostook Agency on Aging’s volunteer programs work under the funding from Corporation for National and Community Service, State of Maine Office of Aging and Disability, the United Way of Aroostook and other local partners. Christine McPherson of Presque Isle coordinates the southern half of the county.
There is always a need for volunteers, age 18 and up, throughout Aroostook County. Persons interested in finding opportunities to serve their neighbors are invited to call the Agency on Aging at 207-764-3396/1-800-439-1789 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.