Volunteers provide young, elderly companionship

May Johnson (right) has been volunteering with the senior companion program for nine years, and is pictured here receiving a certificate of appreciation from Heather Brassil, program coordinator. (Photo by Travis Rains/Daily Miner)

May Johnson (right) has been volunteering with the senior companion program for nine years, and is pictured here receiving a certificate of appreciation from Heather Brassil, program coordinator. (Photo by Travis Rains/Daily Miner)

KINGMAN – Human interaction is important for everyone regardless of age, and volunteer groups in Kingman are making sure children and seniors get the emotional support that comes from speaking with someone who cares.

Fostering independence and sharing life experiences are the goals of Northern Arizona University’s senior companion and foster grandparent programs. The community and seniors receiving care through those programs shared their appreciation for volunteers at an award ceremony Friday.

“We volunteer in local schools or other non-profit organizations like the pregnancy center or club for youth,” said Heather Brassil, program coordinator.

According to NAU’s website, relationships with grandparents improve academic performance and help in the development of social skills. Foster grandparents mentor young people and help them with reading and other aspects of their education, as well provide emotional guidance.

Social interaction is important for seniors, too. The senior companion program helps seniors stay active and as independent as possible.

“Our older volunteers go out and visit with older adults and they empower them to be able to stay in their homes as long as they can,” Brassil said. “They can help them in their home with writing letters, maybe tidying up around the house in just normal ways that a friend would help a friend.”

Alan Nix participates in the companion program and appreciates the service he receives from the program and through his companion, Mary Winchester.

“For me it’s a life-altering experience,” Nix said. “I was basically a shut-in before they came along. I really enjoy the companionship I get.”

Winchester has three clients, and does everything from taking them to breakfast twice a week, to offering rides to doctor appointments.

“It’s a good program, I take my clients to wherever they want to go,” she said.

Mary Johnson has been a volunteer for nine years. She’s even called an “adopted daughter” by one of her clients.

“It’s a really rewarding experience to know you’ve done something for someone else,” she said.

Dorothy Thomas, another volunteer, agreed.

“Sometimes, we’re the only family they know,” she said.