02/12/06 — Senior companions recognized at luncheon

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Senior companions recognized at luncheon

By Turner Walston
Published in News on February 12, 2006 2:07 AM

WAGES honored its Senior Companion Program participants at the program's annual luncheon Friday at the Dillard Alumni Center.

The program, begun in 1974, pairs seniors over the age of 60 with clients who are ill, with ailments such as Alzheimer's disease or dementia, or are wheelchair-bound. Senior companions spend four hours a day with clients, five days a week. There are currently more than 75 participants at ten sites.

"It's just a wonderful group to work with," said June Monk, program administrator.

Shirley Edwards, vice chair of the WAGES Board of Directors, said most seniors spend time being served by others. "You've reversed it," she told the companions. "You're the servers."

Henry Jones and wife Ruth volunteer at Brian Center. Jones said the program is one of self-sacrifice.

"It's not about me," he said. "It's about those that need my assistance.

"We always try to give them a ray of hope, and let them know somebody loves them," Jones said. "If you love somebody, you'll show it. You won't talk it, but you'll walk it."

Gladys Watson serves at O'Berry Center. She said her clients can't speak to her verbally. Still, she knows when she has brought some happiness to them.

"The smile, and the look on their faces; that's enough," she said.

Volunteer Jessie Whitaker said a bright outlook is contagious to her client. "If you be happy to them, that will lift them up," she said.

Mrs. Whitaker, who is diabetic, found something in common with her client, Mary Porter, who also suffers from the disease.

"She's just a godsend for me," Mrs. Porter said of Mrs. Whitaker. "I'd be lost without her." Mrs. Porter said Mrs. Whitaker's positive attitude inspires her. "That smile means a lot to me," she said. "Thanks a lot, Jessie. I love you."