Interfaith Caregivers Group in Oregon Trains Volunteers to Help Elderly Residents

Faith in Action

Field of Work: Providing volunteer services for elderly and disabled people through interfaith programs.

Problem Synopsis: In 1983, more than 10 million American elderly or persons with chronic disabilities had limited ability to carry on such essential activities of daily living as feeding, dressing, and bathing. Such individuals usually require a mix of medical and supportive services to help with ordinary activities of daily living such as feeding, bathing, dressing, housekeeping and transportation.

Synopsis of the Work: Faith in Action, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, funded hundreds of projects across the country to support interfaith volunteer caregiving. In rural Newburg, Ore., a Faith in Action project learned by trial and error how to meet the needs of isolated elderly and disabled residents. The project started by working with elderly, homebound individuals. As project staff gained more expertise, the project expanded to include providing services to children with disabilities.

Key Results: By the end of its funding in 1997, project staff could point to the following results:

  • Project staff recruited more than 71 volunteers who provided 792 hours of service to care recipients. About 20 percent of volunteers were college students who typically participated once or twice a year in activities such as yard clean up or window washing.
  • More than 84 elderly people received assistance from volunteers. Requests for services came from older adults, their families, friends and congregations; and from home health and social service agencies, hospitals, senior centers and nursing homes.
  • The project partnered with local organizations to accomplish specific tasks. For instance, the organization:
    • Partnered with Habitat for Humanity to install safety grab bars in homes.
    • Worked with George Fox University, a Christian university whose main campus is in Newberg, to set up community service projects for new student orientation week.
    • Worked with the city library to develop and implement a service called Homebound Books, in which librarians put together a bundle of books for elderly citizens and volunteers delivered them.