Volunteers, Attendance Up at Adams Council on Aging

By Kathy Keeser
02:01PM / Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Volunteers like Bob Joppich keep the Adams Council on Aging going.

ADAMS, Mass. — The numbers are up for participants and volunteers for Council on Aging since moving into the Visitors Center this past fall.  

"We have more volunteers in programs such as meal site, reception, grocery shopping, socials, and assistance with the tax program has increased from three people to eight," said COA Director Erica Samson. "Since our move, our attendance has raised a considerable amount, for example we have assisted more than 110 new senior adults since September."

"It is centrally located, more visually appealing in its structure and availability of natural light, making it a happy environment to be in. We are looking forward to continue to increase opportunities with the new space."

Volunteers like Bob Joppich are incredibly important. Joppich is the first person at the center at least three days a week to open the building and get everything ready — except the coffee: "Because it was too strong when I made it," laughed Joppich.   

Keeping up with all data tracking, creating forms, designing posters, doing just about any computer task necessary, and helping serve meals daily to COA attendees, Joppich helps the COA generate program statistics, find information on attendees, create paperwork and procedures, and keep programs going.  

"I am conscious of saving money and recognize that as a volunteer, I am saving the COA on overhead costs and I can do things Erica needs done," said Joppich. "After I retired from GE, I spent 13 years at the hospital, then six years at Sweet Brook [Care Centers in Williamstown] when my wife was there and also volunteer time at the Adult Day Health program before coming to the Adams COA in 2008."

Without volunteers, it would be difficult to run day-to-day operations and the programs, said Linda Greenbush, outreach coordinator for the COA. Lou Yarter, along with Karen Matthews, as a SHINE (Serving The Health Information Needs of Elders) councilor, helps attendees with medical insurance questions.  

In addition, Yarter takes care of the computer lab and leads the computer classes, which are free.  

"A lot come in [to the classes] not knowing even how to turn on a computers and after taking classes, many have computers and even iPhones. I can see the changes in people's faces that they are able [after classes] to do things they had never done before and they are amazed," said Greenbush. "Like when they first Skype and experience the call to family long distance through the computer, and they can SEE them while talking to them, it is so amazing."

Volunteer instructors like artists Andrew Davis and Clare Fox are key.

The new location of the Adams Council on Aging has sparked an increase in attendance as well as volunteers.

Both know Greenbush. They ran into her one night and got talking, one thing lead to another, and soon they were doing a late summer/fall eight-week art instruction program. As artists, they have provided art instruction at places such as the Clark Art Institute and the Vermont Arts Exchange in North Bennington. Fox was involved with free arts programs in New York City, mostly bringing arts to underserved youth. Davis taught art as a volunteer when he lived in Los Angeles.  

As community-minded artists, after they moved to North Berkshire, Davis and Fox got involved with DownStreetArt (a project of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Berkshire Cultural Resource Center) a few years ago. Their goal is to help participants express their artistic sides.

"Teaching as a volunteer in art programs like at the COA, is rewarding. We introduce different techniques from pencil drawing (with no eraser), charcoal on color paper, and  introduce other mediums like  pastels," said Davis. "People pick up on the drawing, whether or not they have had experience before and all their work is different, but very creative."

Volunteers continue to be needed at the Adams Council on Aging, said Sampson. "We are in need of some volunteers for specialty services, for example if someone has a talent or hobby they would like to share."

For more information, contact the Adams Council on Aging, 3 Hoosac St., Adams, MA 01227 or at 413-743-8333. Find the calendar of events and newsletters on the town's website.


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