Serving Craig, Ottawa, and Rogers counties, Senior Companions help those served by extending independent living in their homes.

MIAMI - There is plenty of good that happens inside the First Christian Church in Miami. Among them is the gathering of one branch of the region's most dedicated service groups, the Senior Companion Program (SCP).

Senior Companions are community members age 55 and over who give back by providing one-on-one assistance and friendship to frail seniors, and others who have difficulty with daily living tasks.

Regionally, SCP serves Craig, Ottawa, and Rogers counties through their respective County Health Departments.

Facilitating the local SCP is Program Director Janea Hogan with the Craig County Health Department, Site Supervisor Ramie Tirres with the Ottawa County Health Department and Melodie Doyle with the Rogers County Health Department.

Active service members meet monthly for an In-Service meeting. For the Ottawa County branch, SCP members meet at the First Christian Church and then follow the session with a social lunch.

The meetings bring local SCP service members together with program administrators for an informative session that includes discussion of current rules and services, the honoring of fellow members, information packets, guest speakers, and time allotted for general questions and new business.

For July, Ottawa County members honored Peggy O' Kelly as the "Champion of Compassion" the SCP designation for their volunteer of the month. The recognition is sponsored by Good Shepard Hospice, which is also a partner in providing service information to members in helping their clients maintain independence.

During the most recent session, Ottawa County SCP volunteers were also given a brief on a recent client survey, which revealed high satisfaction with the program and its service members.

"91 percent say that because of Senior Companions they are reporting increased social ties and having a better quality of life," said Hogan. "So, what you're doing is working. Numbers don't lie."

About the program

The goal of the program is to help those served by extending independent living in their homes. Senior Companions also fill a need by offering camaraderie to their clients and giving families or professional caregivers much needed time off from their duties.

Service is based on the individual needs of the client and often includes things such as transportation to medical appointments, grocery shopping, assistance with making bill payments and help with different household tasks. Senior Companions also help by alerting doctors and family members of potential problems.

The program is a national one facilitated and partially funded through Senior Corps a sub-branch of the federal Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).

Locally, SCP serves Craig, Ottawa, and Rogers counties through the Oklahoma Department of Health and is sponsored by the United Way, the Northeast Oklahoma Rural Electric Coop, Peoria Tribe, and the Vinita Red Feather Fund.

Become a Senior Companion

No specific skills are required to become a Senior Companion other than a desire to build friendships and serve fellow community members. Volunteers must be 55 or older, live within one of the three served counties, and undergo a background check and interview.

Pre-service and in-service training is provided, and volunteers can work up to 20 hours per week and receive a modest, tax-free stipend of $2.65 an hour, reimbursement for transportation, an annual physical exam, and accident and liability insurance.

Volunteers are also outfitted with Senior Companion shirts that they wear on duty and must submit timesheets logging their visits.

Beyond standard benefits, SCP service members are also helping themselves by helping others. According to the CNCS, seniors who volunteer experience greater life satisfaction, a sense of purpose and accomplishment, more stress resilience, and lower rates of depression.

New SCP service members are always needed, and there remains a waiting list of regional clients.

To learn more and to join call 918-256-7531, ext. 114 or visit www.nationalservice.gov/programs/senior-corps.