May 2007

Grant Results

National Program

Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers Program, Faith in Action(R), Generation 2 and Generation 3

SUMMARY

Project staff at the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast in Clearwater, Fla., established an interfaith volunteer caregivers project, which trained volunteers to provide services for the frail elderly and people with chronic and terminal illnesses in Pinellas County, Fla.

The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) national program Faith in Action, Replication of the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers Program.

Key Results

  • The Caregivers United project recruited a coalition of 21 faith communities and area service organizations to participate in the two projects.
  • Project staff organized teams of caregiving groups at 11 faith communities. Each faith community had its own autonomous program of volunteer caregivers and a volunteer coordinator who assumed responsibility for management of the congregation's caregiving program, its volunteers and its work with members in need.
  • Volunteers provided services to 263 people during the project. Services provided included friendly visits, transportation, meal preparation, assistance with shopping, respite care and personal care.
  • Project staff started a new teen volunteer project in South St. Petersburg, a predominantly African-American area that had not been served earlier. Volunteer coordinators recruited 36 teens to regularly visit home-bound people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

See Laura's Story for how this program helped elderly people.

See the Teen Volunteer Story for how the project helped nursing home residents.

Funding
RWJF provided two grants totaling $60,000 from June 1997 through June 2006.

 See Grant Detail & Contact Information
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THE PROBLEM

Nearly a quarter of a million people — 26 percent of the population — in Pinellas County, Fla., are over the age of 65. The county, which includes the greater St. Petersburg area, is confronting caregiving issues for the aged sooner than the rest of the country.

Community Care for the Elderly, a federally funded program under the Older Americans Act and managed by the local Area Agency on Aging designed to help frail elders live independently in their homes, faced the following problems in 1997:

  • Community Care for the Elderly served an average of 203 persons a month with a waiting list of 896.
  • Only those with the most critical needs received services.
  • People remained on the list anywhere from six months to four years until their situation became critical.
  • In spite of best efforts, many elderly had to go to institutional settings before in-home care became available.

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RWJF STRATEGY

The basic notion of helping a neighbor in need is deeply rooted in the world's major faiths, and many congregations provide some level of caregiving. However, often these efforts are on a small scale, poorly organized and not well promoted.

RWJF began its funding of interfaith volunteer caregiving in 1983, with a national demonstration program, the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers Program. The Faith in Action program grew out of this initiative in 1993.

The program seeks to encourage congregations representing various faiths in a community to come together, hire a paid director and establish a single, communitywide program that provides nonmedical assistance through volunteers drawn largely from participating congregations.

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THE PROJECT

The First Grant (ID# 032144)

During this grant, which ran from June 1997 through November 1998, the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast implemented the Caregivers United project (later renamed Faith in Action of the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast. The project sought to organize a countywide caregiver training program in Pinellas County, Fla., to prepare volunteers to serve the needs of the frail elderly, people with chronic illness and those with terminal illnesses.

Activities

  • Staff at the hospice formed an advisory council with 16 members drawn from area houses of worship, community hospitals and residential communities for people who are chronically ill or elderly.
  • Volunteers received at least 24 hours of training provided by the Hospice Institute of the Florida Suncoast, a unit of the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast that provides research and education for hospice and palliative care organizations. Ninety-four percent of the volunteers came from faith communities.
  • Connie Cozzini, the project coordinator, designed a support structure to help faith communities establish and support their own, autonomous volunteer caregiving projects. The support included:
    • Ongoing training on topics including recruitment of volunteer caregivers, support for volunteers and principles to retain volunteers.
    • Creation of resource information that volunteers in each faith community could use to help recipients learn about community services and programs.
  • Volunteers collected basic demographic information about the people they visited, including income level and age, as part of their participation in the national Faith in Action program.

The Second Grant (ID# 050136)

In January 2004, the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast was one of several existing Faith in Action projects to receive a $35,000 grant from RWJF (ID# 050136) to expand its services to a neighboring area through June 2006.

The design of care teams within faith communities was implemented. Faith communities worked together to meet the needs of the local community and the care-receivers within that community.

The hospice organized teen volunteers, who were at risk of drug abuse and other problems to visit older people in nursing homes and other facilities. Teen volunteers spent time with the elders, sang songs and helped them create videotapes and scrapbooks about their lives. The project is based in South St. Petersburg, an area with primarily African-American residents that had not been served earlier.

Although The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast continued to administer the grant funds, the new project took a name of its own, Faith in Action St. Petersburg, in order to create its own identity.

Activities

  • Hospice staff hired a project coordinator, Natalie Washington, who worked in the Hospice's community service center located in the target area of South St. Petersburg.
  • The project established a separate advisory council of 15 members who represented faith communities and service organizations in South St. Petersburg.
  • With the help of adult mentors, the teen volunteers organized themselves and planned activities for people who were elderly. The teens called themselves Hospice Youth Providing Encouragement (HYPE).
  • Staff members also started a program with physician-assistant students from Barry University. The trained students contact patients and families on the first day of admission to the hospice to insure that they were comfortable for the evening and to assure them that the hospice staff was available to them 24 hours a day.

Challenges

  • Some faith communities were concerned that the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast's motive for providing this community service was to recruit volunteers for its own program. The project coordinator overcame this impression by articulating and teaching the mission of Faith in Action St. Petersburg, which is to enhance the caregiving capabilities of Pinellas County faith communities. Faith in Action St. Petersburg is an interfaith volunteer caregiving program connecting volunteers of all ages to their neighbors in need.
  • The project coordinator had difficulty in obtaining the required biographic information and documentation about the care receivers from the volunteers. Many volunteer coordinators and caregivers found the task of collecting and processing the required information burdensome. Many also felt uncomfortable requesting the financial information from the care recipients. The project coordinator obtained the required information only through offering continuous encouragement to the volunteers.
  • The project coordinator found that people eligible to receive caregiving services were reluctant to let strangers into their homes. The project coordinator was able to overcome this challenge somewhat by using volunteers from the care receivers' congregation. As a result, the project did not serve as many people as anticipated.
  • It was at times difficult to persuade the smaller faith communities to collaborate with each other. Most of these had functioned autonomously from their inception and were reluctant to ask for assistance from their neighboring congregations, said Kathy Roble, director of volunteer services for the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast and overall supervisor of the two projects.

    Project staff responded to this reluctance by hosting meetings and conversations with the faith communities. These conversations helped grow the advisory council and also the trust between the faith communities. It took time for the faith communities to start working together, especially during the second grant. However, the outcome is one of mutual appreciation for one another.

Funding

In addition to Grant ID#s 032144 and 050136, the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast received $10,000 directly from Kingston (N.Y.) Hospital, the national program office for Faith in Action. This funding supported continued operation of its Faith in Action project when the first grant, ID# 032144, ended.

The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast was one of 388 Faith in Action sites eligible for these supplemental grants (administered through a $443,235 technical assistance and direction grant from RWJF to Kingston Hospital, ID# 036537).

In 2005, 2006 and 2007, the project received additional funding of $50,000 each year from the Eckerd Family Foundation to support HYPE, the teen component of Faith in Action St. Petersburg.

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RESULTS

According to the final report to RWJF, the two projects accomplished the following:

  • The Caregivers United project recruited a coalition of 21 faith communities and area service organizations to participate in the project.
  • Project staff organized teams of caregiving groups at 11 faith communities. Each faith community had its own autonomous program of volunteer caregivers and a volunteer coordinator who assumed responsibility for management of the congregation's caregiving program, its volunteers and its work with members in need.
  • Volunteers provided care to 263 recipients in their faith communities during the project. Assistance provided included friendly visits, transportation, meal preparation, assistance with shopping, respite care and personal care.

Laura's Story
The following story illustrates the type of care and relationships that developed between volunteers and care receivers:

Laura Romero pushes her walker with an oxygen tank attached through the door to her screened porch. She smiles and greets her friend Marge Modulo, a Faith in Action member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Clearwater, Fla. Marge and Laura chat and laugh as friends do while Marge holds the screen door open and helps Laura maneuver her walker down three steps before making her way to the car.

"I don't drive anymore," Laura says. "But it's important for me to get out — for appointments, grocery shopping and social events. If not for the church and the people in Faith in Action, I would probably have to be in a nursing home.

On a stifling August afternoon, when taking a deep breath is challenging for Laura, she can still get out to her appointment with a little help from her friend from Faith in Action.

In return, Laura makes phone calls to schedule meal deliveries to other families and individuals who need assistance, perhaps due to a hospitalization or other illness. Neighbors helping neighbors — that is the action part of Faith in Action.

  • The Faith in Action St. Petersburg project recruited 36 teens to provide a variety of services to elderly residents of South St. Petersburg. The teens visited elders in nursing homes, sang and participated in arts and crafts projects and helped them tell their life stories on video.

Teen Volunteer Story
Project coordinator Natalie Washington told the following story of how the teens made an impact on one person they visited:

A 72-year-old wheelchair-bound man was living in a nursing home and had not responded to anyone for months, including his wife. She lived on the other side of town and visited him as often as she could. But she wanted him to have contact with others. For his birthday, four teens and two adult volunteers from Faith in Action St. Petersburg came to visit him.

When the volunteers sang "Happy Birthday" to him, the man responded to the teens with smiles, by reading the cards they had brought, and with a tear.

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LESSONS LEARNED

  1. Create an advisory council that looks like the community you are serving and then listen to them. The advisory council needs to reflect the community so that project coordinators understand the people they are serving. It is also important to listen to advisory council members. In this case, the more the project coordinators listened to the advisory council members, the more involved the members became, the more they recruited other faith communities, and the more they supported the caregivers in their community. (Project Director/Nina Gilbert)
  2. Advisory council members and volunteers have more credibility than a project coordinator who is paid to talk up the program. The project coordinator of Faith in Action St. Petersburg found that she had better results in persuading reluctant congregations and care receivers to participate when they heard from volunteers and advisory council members. (Project Coordinator/Washington)

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AFTER THE GRANT

The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast has taken over support of both Faith in Action projects, which continue to provide services to frail elderly, chronically ill and people at the end of their lives. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, the Eckerd Family Foundation provided an additional $50,000 each year to support HYPE, the teen component of Faith in Action St. Petersburg.

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GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION

Project

Faith in Action: Replication of the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers Program

Grantee

Hospice of the Florida Suncoast (Clearwater,  FL)

  • Amount: $ 25,000
    Dates: June 1997 to November 1998
    ID#:  032144

  • Amount: $ 35,000
    Dates: January 2004 to June 2006
    ID#:  050136

Contact

Kathy Roble
(727) 523-3418
kathyroble@thehospice.org

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Report prepared by: Susan G. Parker
Reviewed by: Richard Camer
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Judith S. Stavisky

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