By Crystal Jones
Director of Development
Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health
The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana ChapterThe Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter utilizes volunteers to support programs and services provided by the organization as well as fundraising efforts to support their mission. Stephanie Laskey, program director at the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter, and Julie Moore, director of the Indianapolis Walk to End Alzheimer’s, shared how the organization has adjusted volunteer efforts during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Alzheimer’s Association relies on volunteers to facilitate support groups for caregivers and individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, to support the Alzheimer’s Association Community Educator program.
“We are challenged by our home office to make sure that a volunteer delivers programming to 66 percent of anybody attending an Alzheimer’s program,” Laskey said. “We have moved into this model because we recognize that as a small staff, we cannot serve the number of people that we need to help. We are currently working with our facilitators to determine what their comfort level is with technology, as we are planning to move all of our services to a virtual environment.”
Laskey shared that volunteers can help support the organization by assisting with calls to support group participants.
“We are calling every support group participant to let them know that we are transitioning everything to an online environment,” Laskey said. “We could certainly use some support making those phone calls.”
At the Alzheimer’s Association, fundraising volunteers previously met monthly to discuss strategy and plans to achieve the local fundraising goals. In the new normal, these fundraising teams have transitioned to virtual and phone meetings to continue engaging individuals with the mission.
“We have an aggressive goal to call 440 teams in the Indianapolis area during this public health crisis,” Moore said. “We are reaching out to individuals today, to let them know that the Alzheimer’s Association is still here and continuing to raise funds to support our mission.”
If individuals would like to help with these calls, the opportunity is there, as the Indianapolis walk is one of 12 walks in the 73 counties it serves. The organization has created call scripts and other tools to support volunteers during this time.
As more and more states implement shelter-in-place policies, phone calls are one way that individuals can volunteer. Anyone interested should visit an organization’s website and reach out to a volunteer coordinator. However, it is important to note that not all work performed by nonprofits can be virtual.
Gleaners Food Bank
Gleaners Food Bank has modified both volunteer protocols as well as food distribution in response to the coronavirus and high flu seasons. Treva Burgess, manager of group volunteers at Gleaners Food Bank, shared that before the current COVID-19 crisis, 98 percent of the volunteers at Gleaners were corporate groups or schools participating in a day of caring. Now, all of the volunteers are individuals who are serving in a variety of positions across the organization.
Because the fight against hunger still exists and is worse for some during this time, Gleaners has established a volunteer hub, where individuals can sign up for shifts. Volunteers at Gleaners are helping pack nonperishable boxes for families, which will be delivered to the cars of individuals who need the assistance. In the near future, the organization plans to reduce contact between volunteers even more by turning the six-foot rule into a game. They plan to outline boxes and each volunteer’s goal is to stay in their box.
Burgess emphasized that if someone signs up for a shift, but feels sick when their day to serve arrives, they should stay home.
Burgess is grateful for the support of the Indianapolis community who have filled every shift, and who are making sure they are healthy before they show up. Burgess encourages everyone interested in volunteering to go to the website and schedule a shift to work. If potential volunteers are unable to serve in person, they can help by starting a virtual food drive, which provides individuals a chance to shop online.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is how we have expanded access to healthy and nutritious food, even during this crisis,” Burgess said. “We know that is what helps people get healthy and stay healthy.”
The virtual food drive provides volunteers with a wide variety of donation levels: “There are items for under $20 and some for over $20. Each of our family meal boxes cost $20 per box and feeds a family of four for a week.”
The Alzheimer’s Association and Gleaners Food Bank are just two ways that individuals can serve the community. The Mayor’s Action Center (in Indianapolis) has put together a COVID-19 and Volunteer Opportunities list for individuals who are looking for additional ways to support the community during the pandemic. As the world continues to respond to this crisis, if you have a desire to help, call the local office and ask how you can assist.