Folks at Home non-profit recruits student volunteers

By Abby Garmon

Staff Writer

Folks at Home, a non-profit organization located just down the road in Sewanee, serves to facilitate care for elderly men and women within the community. The organization provides a multitude of services through its “vetted vendors” program, including transportation, yard work, friendly visits, and more. Recently, Folks at Home made a concerted effort to recruit student volunteers, as seen at Sewanee’s annual Activity Fair. The organization welcomes student help in all capacities, from yard work to office aid. One of the most important aspects of the student volunteer program is simply spending time with the organization’s members. As Kathleen O’Donohue, the program’s director, explains, “It’s something that makes a huge difference, because people get isolated at home by themselves. Sometimes they get bored; sometimes they get lonely. It’s really important to have another human being show that they care.”

Since purchasing a new building in November, the organization has been busy pairing its members with drivers, caregivers, and other various helpers. “A woman called us and told us her husband was going to have to start to have cancer treatments everyday of the week and asked if we could start to have someone drive one day a week,” remarks O’Donohue. “We sent out a message to volunteers, and we were able to get one driver a week for five weeks… She was so excited to have that one day off.”

Folks at Home has also begun offering classes to help its members remain healthy, both mentally and physically. One program, “Boost Your Brain and Memory” provides people with important information on nutrition, exercise, stress-reduction, and memory. Also offered, “Fall Prevention” is a program that uses tai chi and teaches important safety skills.

Ultimately, Folks at Home emphasizes the importance of community and provides a much-appreciated helping hand to elderly Sewanee residents, who may otherwise be incapable of living by themselves. The organization has been a huge help to people, as well as a great way of getting Sewanee students involved in the community.

The idea for Folks at Home was hatched back in 2008, when members of the Sewanee community began to notice the unfortunate movement of their friends and family members into nursing homes. O’Donohue explains, “What motivated them was that they saw their friends having to leave town, go away, and live somewhere else. And it made them really sad. They didn’t want their friends to leave. Sometimes they felt like, if they could only get rides to the doctors, or have someone help them do errands, they wouldn’t have to leave. They heard about an organization in Boston who was doing a program, and they said ‘We can do this.’”

From there, Folks at Home began its mission, helping the elderly in the Sewanee area to maintain their independence for as long as possible. The organization has worked tirelessly to connect Sewanee residents with volunteers. These volunteers assist them with daily tasks that they might otherwise be unable accomplish. Over the last eight years, Folks at Home has made a remarkable impact on the lives of elderly Sewanee residents.