Congratulations to Jean Stevens and Gloria DiSanto for their volunteer service as Chairpersons on the Advisory Council. The Council on Aging’s Advisory Council is a voluntary group that provides information, guidance, advice, and support to the Executive Director, Board of Directors, and agency staff to plan, develop, review, coordinate, and administer services to older persons in the tri-county.
Why did you decide to volunteer for the Council on Aging?
Jean: I’m a senior, and I thought this would give me a voice in leading the community towards taking care of seniors’ needs, understanding those needs, and hopefully providing effective programs that would enhance their lives.
What about the organization drew you in?
Jean: I went to a presentation about seniors with Alzheimer’s. I saw the passion with which the Council on Aging staff members did this presentation, their knowledge about what resources were available in Central Oregon, and all communities involved. It was inspiring.
Gloria: I volunteered to do Meals on Wheels just after moving to Bend. It wasn’t until then that I realized how fortunate and grateful I am to do something that impacts individual lives. I heard the Council of Aging was looking for Advisory Committee members and decided to join to gain more knowledge and understanding to help the elderly – which is my demographic.
What’s it like working with the other Advisory Council volunteers?
Jean: What I appreciate the most is the incredible energy, the interest. The folks on the Advisory Council are dedicated. I just love being around them because they’re exciting, and they get excited about the programs. They genuinely care about what we do, not only in the Advisory Council but what the Council on Aging does in the overall picture.
Gloria: I’ve served on the committee for four years and enjoy being part of the team. Each one brings a unique quality and experience to the table. Due to Covid, it has been challenging, but I have cultivated a friendship that I dearly appreciate.
Is the experience helping you grow as a person?
Jean: Definitely, this has encouraged me. This has been a venue where I have learned that I’m not obsolete, that my voice, my opinion, my thoughts about different things matter. I’ve learned about the different communities, like how different Prineville is, for instance, from Sisters and La Pine from Madras. Each one is unique. Each one has specific needs and specific ways of life.
Jean: I think as a volunteer you are needed, and very much appreciated. You don’t do it for applause. You don’t do it for anything other reason than you want to give to your fellow humans, your community, and society in general.
What’s the most important thing that Council on Aging volunteers do for our seniors?
Jean: Seniors who are treated with respect and dignity, possess and share a wealth of information. Listening to them, you learn about how many seniors feel. What can we do to better take care of their needs? I bring those conversations to the Advisory Council and say we’ve identified a need. What are we going to do about it? How are we going to act on it?
Jean: This unique program, Caring Connections, is an excellent example of recognizing the tremendous need at the beginning of Covid about isolation and seniors with little contact. Because of the need Caring Connections has evolved. It has grown, and I don’t see it ever ending because it’s not just about Covid anymore. It’s about isolation loneliness, and recognizing this is a very real problem that seniors have.
How does volunteering for the Council on Aging make you feel?
Jean: It makes me feel like I have a voice again and have it matter and count for something. I was raised in a time frame when you became a senior you were relegated to crocheting potholders or making mittens for the great-grandchildren.
Jean: I also believe that presentation from seniors living in all the different tri-county communities in Central Oregon is vital. We need representation from La Pine, which we don’t have right now. We also need representation in Madras, Redmond, and Sisters. We want to make sure everybody is heard, and the needs in every community are met. I hope people from those communities will take up the gauntlet and donate time and energy to the Advisory Council.
Gloria: Volunteering is gratifying. I feel I made a difference in one’s life that day.
What would you say to someone considering volunteering for the Council on Aging?
Gloria: I would invite them to attend a meeting to learn what the committee is about. When I deliver the meals to the individuals, they express gratitude and thank you.
Do you wish you had volunteered sooner?
Jean: Yes, it would have given me much more time to learn, come up with ideas, and work with more people.