Acknowledging the ‘hidden gems’ of Madison County

Sheridan and Ennis senior companions recognized for service as part of National Service Recognition Day

“These folks really are the hidden gems of Sheridan,” said Mindy Diehl, Senior Companion Program coordinator.

Tuesday, April 3 was National Service Recognition Day and Sheridan’s Senior Companions celebrated with lunch and cake at the Sheridan Senior Citizen’s Center. Currently, Madison County has six senior companions, five in Sheridan and one in Ennis. The Senior Companion Program began in 1974 to help seniors and other adults maintain independence, primarily in their own homes. “While it’s great to have such wonderful nursing home facilities and care facilities, I want to be able to stay in my home until the very end,” said Diehl as she presented to the lunch crowd. “Senior companions help folks to be able to do just that and I really hope you’ll consider supporting our program.” 

The program is essentially a volunteer position, with a nontaxable stipend and a mileage reimbursement; volunteers usually serve between 15 and 40 hours a week with clients. Tasks include everything from grocery shopping, paying bills, driving clients to appointments and any other daily tasks clients might need. But the most important role companions serve is providing friendship and companionship. 

For such a small valley, Sheridan’s program is thriving, according to Diehl. In the past 12 months, companions have worked 7,620.50 hours, saving clients nearly $200,000. The average cost of a professional caregiver is $24.14 and hour and through dedicated senior companions, folks around the county receive care and companionship at no cost. 

Carol Braach has been a senior companion for almost 17 years and has eight clients around the valley that she cares for on a daily basis. “It’s something for me to do and helps keep me busy,” she said. “But it’s also very satisfying work.” 

Joining Braach in the Ruby Valley is Shangra Hoover, Ronna Devereaux, Glen Alderman and Julie McAlear. On average, the Ruby Valley senior companions each care for three clients. Shirley Sand, who is the lady in the kitchen at the Senior Citizen Center, is the site supervisor for the program. “We’ve got the best chef in town, Monday through Friday!” exclaimed one lunch visitor. 

Representing the Madison Valley is Anita Ames, who has served as a companion for 16 years. She’s served many homebound Ennis residents and helped them maintain their independence in their own homes. “I’m honored that Anita volunteers for the Senior Companion Program and continue to be humbled by her dedication to the community,” said Diehl. 

Present at recognition lunch were Madison County Commissioners Ron Nye and Dan Allhands, to see firsthand the commitment and meaningful work the companions provide. “The work these companions do is truly amazing, and I hope you’ll support the program,” said Diehl. 

The Senior Companions Program is branch of the national Senior Corps Program, with 244,000 volunteers and 35,000 active sites. Volunteers for this must be 55 or older in age. If you’re interested in getting involved with the program, contact Diehl at 406-457-7325.

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The Madisonian

65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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