Volunteers offer services to Alexandrians

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Barbara Ruben

Need help detangling Medicare’s bureaucracy? A volunteer with Senior Services of Alexandria’s resource center may be able to point you in the right direction.

Want someone to come to your home for friendly conversation? A volunteer with a new program of the 44-year-old nonprofit organization can help with that, too.

And the group has a cadre of more than 200 volunteers who deliver Meals on Wheels six days a week.

With all those services, though, the group is continuously reaching out to members of the community to help out.

“We want to do all these things, but we can’t do them as well as we’d like [without more volunteers],” said Janet Barnett, the organization’s executive director.

Delivering meals

Tom Irvin, 82, has delivered meals for Senior Services of Alexandria two to three times a week since he retired from the U.S. Dept. of Education in 2007.

He says he enjoys meeting the people he helps as much as they are grateful for the food.

“Some are severely disabled and some just have trouble getting around. In all of the cases, everyone is very appreciative to get the meals.

“It’s just a pleasure to go in say, ‘Hi, how are you doing? Meals on Wheels here. Nice to see you. Hope you have a nice day today’ and so on. I think they appreciate that. And it makes me feel good,” Irvin said.

Sometimes Irvin delivers the meals by himself, while other days he pairs up with another volunteer. One serves as a driver and one as a “runner,” taking the meals into home.

On a typical day, Irvin delivers between six and 14 meals. “Doing that keeps my energy going. It’s really a very worthwhile endeavor,” he said.

Fellow volunteer Sarah Fewell agrees. She has been delivering meals since 1995, starting with one day a month. She now delivers meals at least once a week, sometimes working in tandem with her niece, who is a college student.

“When I deliver meals I receive a blessing because I see people less fortunate than I am. I feel the least I can do is give them some of my time,” Fewell, 72, said.

About 20 volunteers are needed each day to deliver meals. Deliveries take two to three hours, and volunteers can help out as little as once a month, Barnett said. A background check is required.

Other volunteer opportunities

She said the group is also looking for volunteers to help the part-time director of their resource center answer calls from seniors, adult children and caregivers.

The organization is starting a new “friendly visitor” program for which it is now recruiting volunteers. These volunteers would be matched with frail or homebound Alexandria residents and visit them on a regular basis to both provide social interaction and as a way to make sure the residents are doing well.

The organization also sponsors lectures on a variety of topics. The subject of its Feb. 14 talk is “Employment and Volunteer Opportunities for Alexandria’s Seniors.” The event takes place at 10 a.m. at the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, 323 S. Fairfax St., Alexandria, Va.

For more information on volunteering with Senior Services of Alexandria, call (703) 836-4414 or see www.seniorservicesalex.org.