Pine Bluffs Post - Serving all of Eastern Laramie County since 1908

By Gary Collins
Pine Bluffs Post 

Reaching out to seniors


Gary Collins/Pine Bluffs Post

Wyoming Senior Volunteer Companion, Mary Reinhardt at the Pine Bluffs Senior Center.

There are times when those with special needs or disabilities want someone to talk to, someone to play cards with, or to read to them or just someone for companionship.

There are times when those caring for these individuals need some respite time but don't want to leave those in their care alone. That is when the Wyoming Senior Companion Program (WSCP) is ready to step in and offer, at least two hours a day, someone to fill those times when caregivers need time to themselves.

Mary Reinhardt is just such a companion. She has been working with WSCP for two years here in Pine Bluffs. She is currently spending time with three individuals either taking Judy to lunch twice a week at the Pine Bluffs Senior Center, spending time with Mary who lives outside of town or giving time off to a man in Burns who is caring for a relative who is suffering from ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease.

The program is available, at no cost, to adults 21 or older: the frail, disabled, homebound or just lonely individuals who want to or need the assistance of a special, dependable friend.. The goal of the program is to encourage independent living, thereby delaying or avoiding institutionalization.

"It's to be a friend and a companion," Reinhardt said.

The volunteer companions are not nurses or licensed caregivers and all are 55 or older.. They are individuals who have received 40 hours of training, and undergo an additional four hours of in-service training each month.

They provide socialization, encouragement, reading, letter writing, simple home management chores, help with personal grooming, escorts to medical appointments and, most importantly, friendship and someone to talk to.

The volunteer companions receive mileage and meal compensation for their efforts. They also receive supplemental insurance coverage, paid holidays and sick leave, paid vacations and a whopping $2.65 per hour tax free stipend.

"I didn't get into this to make money," Reinhardt said.

Those interested into looking into the program for someone to offer respite for a caregiver who just needs time for themselves, or a friend, relative or doctor wishing a little companionship for someone in need may contact Alisha Michaud at the Pine Bluffs Senior Center or Nita Stephenson, the WSCP program manager in Cheyenne at 1-877-634-1005.

When the paperwork is completed the Senior Center Supervisor, in this case Michaud, will meet with a volunteer. At such a time the volunteer will meet with the client to ensure that they are compatible, though it is recommended that the referring party be in attendance to ensure that the potential client is properly represented.


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