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Valdez Star 

End-of-life service group looking for volunteers to help to jumpstart program

Services for the chronically ill or in need of hospice care will be under one umbrella


A new group in Valdez is working to consolidate aid and services for the chronically ill or those in need of hospice care – and is turning to the community for manpower.

“It’s getting underway, we are in the process of getting volunteers,” said Joan Heikens, founder of Connections to Care Inc. “Our primary focus is hospice.”

Heikens, who has been deeply involved in health care issues and elder care in Valdez for several decades, said that as a former member of the hospital board, she long saw the need for hospice services and end-of-life care for people in the community facing the prospect of dying but who are not candidates for hospital care or the long-term care unit.

So, she left her position on the board and went to work securing funding to begin forming a nonprofit organization dedicated to filling gaps in care she’d seen over the years.

The City of Valdez, United Way Valdez, PVMC and even Copper Valley Telephone got involved to cover costs or provide in-kind services to help create the additional infrastructure needed to bring services to those in need.

“It’s kind of a group effort,” she said, noting the board of directors consists of medical and social services professionals.

In many cases, the services already exist in Valdez, but people may not be aware of the resources that are available, such as the medical equipment lending library that is maintained at the Valdez Senior Center. Items such as shower chairs – aids that a person may not have needed or known about before they became infirm – has been in service in Valdez for many years. The organization can also help connect those in need with other social services they may be eligible to receive.

“We want the town to know about the group,” Heikens Monday while juggling responsibilities at the Senior Center.

One of the first steps in creating the infrastructure involved putting together a package the group calls “Cross the Bridge” – which she said is useful informational resource – especially for those without close family support.

“We have some brochures we’re trying to put out,” she said, to spread the word about the service and target those who may be in need.

The organization is also in need – of volunteers.

“We are in the process of getting volunteers,” Heikens said, and noted that volunteer service does not necessarily take special skills and can often be incorporated into ordinary, daily activities – such as making a run to the pharmacy for someone who cannot do it for themselves.

People who will sit and keep people company for long or short periods of time, deliver a meal, or just mow a lawn are as welcome as those will to commit to longer and bigger volunteer opportunities.

Church groups and youth service organizations are also encouraged to get involved.

“Everybody seems to need different things,” Heikens said, and also noted that community members also have different things to offer. “I’m hoping to have volunteers that can do that.”

Anyone with questions – or answers – can contact the organization at 907-255-2356.


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