Project in Alaska City Struggles with Faith in Action Name

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. Sitka, Alaska is a small coastal island city accessible only by boat or air. A number of the 8,800 residents of this isolated community do not have family members or close friends nearby to rely on in times of need.

Synopsis of the Work: Faith in Action, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), funded hundreds of projects across the country to support interfaith volunteer caregiving. Two Sitka residents, Auriella Hughes, R.N., and Jean Frank, recognized the need for a volunteer visiting/respite service and hospice-like service as the result of their efforts to care for a local woman who was dying. A woman asked Frank to organize volunteers to help her in her home so she could spend her last days there instead of a hospital. Hughes and Frank held communitywide meetings and with widespread community support formed an organization, Sitka's Faith in Action, to provide volunteer caregiving and respite support.

Key Results: The project reported several accomplishments during its RWJF grant:

  • Staff and supporters recruited 77 volunteers, including board members. Some 75 percent came from congregations while 25 percent came from the general community.
  • Some 58 Sitka residents received assistance from the volunteers. Services provided included shopping, respite care, home visiting, light housekeeping, meal preparation and end-of-life support.