The 13th Annual Community Caregivers Italian Night dinner was held on Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Omni Senior Living Community on Carman Road in Guilderland.  Community Caregivers sponsored the event in conjunction with members of the Guilderland High School Key Club.

Community Caregivers is a human services not-for-profit based in Guilderland.  The organization serves communities in Albany County by matching local volunteers with nearby clients who have non-medical needs, such as transportation to appointments and help with shopping.

The theme of this year’s dinner was “We’re Wild About You,” with each table having a different exotic stuffed animal that was given to a lucky recipient at the end of the evening.  The cake was also decorated to reflect the theme.

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, students from Christine Monlea’s art classes at Pine Bush Elementary School made heart-themed decorated placemats for each setting.

The evening began with a welcome message from the executive director of Community Caregivers, Kathy Burbank, who talked about the type of services and programs offered by the organization.  More than 50 residents at the Omni were on hand to enjoy the dinner, all of which was donated by several local restaurants.

Fifteen students from the Key Club helped set up, decorate the room, and serve the food.  Several other adults from the Omni and the local community were also present to assist with the dinner.  The evening festivities concluded with the awarding of a number of drawn prizes, which were also generously donated by local stores that supported the event.

The volunteers who participated this year included Sean, Conor, Suzanne, and Kevin Quinn; Greg and Nellie Goutos; and Joan Doohan.

Key Club students included Liam Kelley, Jake Valensi, Ania Alberski, Andrew Eldeiry, Katie and Angela Yang, and Kevin Reilly.  Also, Jess Doubleday, Emily Loparo, Afsha Kasam, Danielle Macken, Zack McNally and Kristine Liotta from Key Club.

And a special thank-you to Omni resident Mary McGann, who acted as the site coordinator this year.

Community Caregivers is grateful to the area restaurants that generously supported the dinner, including The 99 Restaurant, TGI Fridays, the Italian-American Community Center, Panera Bread, Pellegrino Importing, Pizza Hut and Coccadott’s Cake Shop.

Also, thank you to the following local businesses that donated door prizes: Candy Kraft, The Book House, Carman Wine & Liquor, Robinson’s Hardware, Mike’s Diner, Bountiful Bread, The Pottery Place, The Altamont Enterprise, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, and Ryan’s Farmers Market.  Also contributing were Walmart, Hannaford, and Price Chopper.

Community Caregivers would like to especially acknowledge the efforts of Sean and Conor Quinn, brothers who attend Guilderland High School and who are also members of Key Club.  Over the past several years they have dedicated countless hours serving as the event coordinators, and are credited with soliciting area restaurants for the donated food, as well as the local businesses that provided door prizes.

They also led the efforts in having the Key Club be a part of the event.  Together with their parents, Kevin and Suzanne Quinn, they work hard behind the scenes to ensure that this yearly event runs smoothly.

Editor’s note: Greg Goutos is a volunteer with Community Caregivers.

If you are a caregiver, keep the ice melt and shovel inside your loved one’s home.  Along with shoveling the walkways, it’s always a good idea to have plenty of ice-melt on hand. If possible, try to make sure someone is putting enough ice-melt on the walkway in order to prevent any build-up.

Encourage your loved one to wear appropriate shoes.  Having a special pair of boots or shoes with non-slip tracking can help decrease the likelihood of falls while out on snow and ice.

Make a plan with neighbors and relatives ahead of time: For light ice or snow, you may be able to handle spreading the ice melt, but work out a shoveling arrangement for larger storms; ask a relative, a neighbor, or a teen in the neighborhood.

Tips for outdoors

Other considerations:

— If you must walk on snow, it should be "crunchy";

— Walk slowly and pay attention;

— Try to avoid particularly hazardous areas;

— Avoid reaching or twisting when walking and standing;

— Keep one hand free for balance unless using a walker;

— Use a waist belt pack or backpack instead of carrying a purse;

— Avoid carrying heavy items;

— Use a portable grocery cart; and

— Install automatic or timed lighting outside.

Advice for indoors

Falls can occur inside of the home as well, but there are a few extra things to consider when it comes to keeping loved ones safe:

— Non-slip socks or slippers:  Walking on cold floors can be uncomfortable. If you wear slippers or socks;

— Cleaning up wet spots: Tracking snow into the house can sometimes be a problem. To prevent this, try to make sure boots and any wet clothing can dry above a winter doormat; and

— Keeping clutter to a minimum: Clutter can build up in the winter months with all of the extra clothes and blankets. Prevent this by making sure everything is in its proper place.

Remember, falls are one of the most common problems our elderly loved ones have but they are also one of the most preventable.

Editor’s note; Kathy Burbank is the executive director of Community Caregivers.

In 1994, Joel Edwards, Mary Therriault, and Vic Ross sat down in a church basement in Altamont, and came up with a plan for volunteers to help their neighbors. Twenty years later, that plan is still in place and has since helped thousands of area residents.

Neighbors helping neighbors was the original idea and we’re proud to say that is still the guiding principle behind everything we do. Our volunteers and clients form the heart of this organization and this year we want to celebrate both.

To that end, several events and initiatives have been planned for 2014 that include enhanced versions of the Golf Outing and Gala, a special commemorative giveaway, an annual appeal, special Pay-It-Forward volunteer effort in the spring and summer, and a drawing involving many Guilderland and Bethlehem area restaurants. 

The recognition will kick off this month with the annual appeal campaign, “Twenty Thousand for Twenty Years.”  The goal is to reach $20,000 through donations from individuals and businesses.

The organization currently provides services that enable individuals of all ages to maintain their independence, dignity, and quality of life within their homes and communities. We offer non-medical assistance to local residents who might otherwise be hospitalized or institutionalized, and help home caregivers manage the physical, emotional, and financial toll that continuous caregiving can take.

Community Caregivers serves residents of mainly the Hilltowns, Bethlehem, Guilderland, Altamont, and Voorheesville area of Albany County, but, in 2012, we also started providing services in the city of Albany.

For more information, please contact me by e-mail at kathy@communitycaregivers.org or by phone at 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Kathy Burbank is the executive director of Community Caregivers.

As we move into the heart of the holiday season, it’s important to keep your wits about you and your stress level at a sane level. This is especially true if you are a caregiver.

When you normally deal with the holidays, you think about family, friends, and so on as you make plans, attend events, or travel. If you have the added responsibility of being a caregiver, things can get out of hand very fast.

Your best bet is to use common sense as you plan your days. For instance, if you work with someone a day or two a week and will be gone for a week or more during the holidays, you’ll need to let them know that and see what you can do to find a temporary replacement for the days you’ll be gone.

For those who are homebound, the holidays can be very stressful from an emotional standpoint so, as a caregiver, it’s important to take that into consideration. If the person in question is a family member, is there a way to include him or her in family events, dinners, parties, and so on? Is there a special gift that would really be appreciated (besides your time and presence)?

If the person you help is not a family member, can you help to get her together with her family in any way? If he has no family, what else could you do to make his holidays brighter?

Beyond these considerations, never forget that, even if you don’t volunteer with Community Caregivers to help others, most of us are still caregivers within our own families and the holidays can make that harder. Try to never lose sight of the big picture at this time of year.

Take things a day at a time and don’t try to do too much. Remember that spending time with family and friends is what the season is all about and the most important gift you can give is your time and love.

The parties, the dinners, the tree, the gifts and cookies, the decorations and shopping are all part of the season. Just don’t forget that those are not necessarily the most important parts. And above all, don’t forget at this busy time of year to take extra good care of yourself because there are people who need you.

From everyone at Community Caregivers, may you have a wonderful holiday season and please let us know if we can help you or if you have some time to help us. That’s what it’s always been about: Neighbors helping neighbors.

A report from the American Association of Retired Persons that just came out states that, in New York State alone, there are 7,000 New Yorkers on waiting lists for transportation and other non-medical services, and four million New Yorkers who provide “informal” services to family and neighbors (AARP.org). 

Most urgently, the report also states that caregiving will be the number-one workplace issue in the near future as baby boomers age and the population of the elderly also increases due to people living longer.  Caregivers providing non-medical services can often keep relatives out of nursing homes and other care facilities for years, just by helping with bills, shopping, errands, and transportation to appointments.

But many must work, or don’t live near their relatives, and count on organizations to help.

Community Caregivers, a not-for-profit organization, has provided these services in Albany County since 1994, and is preparing for the need to increase. 

It already has. We have plenty of clients to serve, and have already expanded from serving just Altamont, the Hilltowns, Bethlehem, and Guilderland, to all of Albany County now. The problem is getting volunteers in the new areas of expansion; most want to stay in their local areas.

Throughout the last eight years, Community Caregivers has had 500 volunteers who provided over 28,000 direct services to over 800 clients. Community Caregivers’ model is to recruit and train volunteers, and match them up with clients who get services for free.

The organization survives on grants and community support, to pay for oversight of volunteers, an registered nurse who does an initial assessment of the client, and program staff to provide ongoing training both for volunteers and the community on caregiving.

AARP and other organizations are advocating for more federal and state resources for caregivers.  Community Caregivers receives New York State Department of Health funds now, and hopes to be able to both get more funding to provide services and advocate for caregivers themselves to be able to be reimbursed for their services.  This will be increasingly more important in the next few years. 

Community Caregivers website, www.communitycaregivers.org, has information on volunteering, referring clients, and services provided.

Editor’s note: Kathy Burbank is the executive director of Community Caregivers.

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