Kathy has been Executive Director of Interfaith Senior Programs since 2001. A native of Wisconsin, she lives in Waukesha with her husband Jim Durnil, and has two sons. Kathy can be seen often at local libraries, book stores, coffee houses, and just all over Waukesha enjoying the local businesses.
At Interfaith Senior Programs we work with more than 2,000 volunteers each year. Many, approximately 60%, are retired from employment, about 35% are still working, and another 5% are under the age of 18.
Youth volunteer with us for a variety of reasons. Here are a few:
- Their family believes in community service, and the children are too young to even know that they are volunteers - they are just raking leaves for a senior who needs help
- Part of a youth group at their church
- Part of a merit badger for Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts
Not that long ago I didn't even have a cell phone. I wanted to hold out as long as possible before purchasing a cell phone so I wouldn't be tied to a phone everywhere I went. Besides, I just couldn't imagine that I would ever need to make a phone call and not be close enough to a regular, land line phone. Or a pay phone, remember pay phones?
Even further back, I had a summer job in downtown Milwaukee as a sort of human fax machine. Yes, this was even before fax machines. I was a temporary worker for different offices, and I would take important documents from company to company, actually walking around downtown Milwaukee. Apparently this was cheaper than a courier service.
Each school year our agency coordinates Intergenerational Folk Art Fairs with the support of volunteers from our Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, or RSVP. A typical Fair involves the efforts of 50 RSVP volunteers under the leadership of RSVP Manager Sue Galkowski. Sue meets with school personnel, usually the principal and several key parent volunteers, beginning months ahead of the actual Fair date.
On the day of the Fair, the gymnasium and several classrooms are taken over by RSVP volunteers. These volunteers demonstrate folklore hobbies and skills, do story telling, show historical collections to students, lead the students in building a log cabin and assist the students in trying activities such a sewing buttons, old-time toys, tools for woodworking, and more. These 50 RSVP volunteers will interact with every student in the school, between 300 - 800 depending on the individual school.
Last weekend our agency was part of a wonderful community partnership with Wisconsin Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, School District of Waukesha, St. Luke's ELCA, From Our Village, and several Girl Scouts troops and businesses. We gave away winter coats, books, food, and a meal for families in the community.
By itself the event was a great way to work together and make sure that families have basic needs met. What made this event different was the support and presence of the Santana Dotson Foundation.
This week, representatives from area shelters, social services agencies, congregations, police departments, housing coalitions, and veterans organzations will take to the streets, parks, abandoned buildings, and parking lots to find individuals who are homeless. Their efforts are required as part of the Point-In-Time Homeless Count that will be happening in every community across the country.
Each year Point-In-Time Homeless Counts provide a snapshot of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations on a single night. Counts help communities understand the special needs of people who are chronically homeless, who experience mental illness and substance abuse, who are veterans, who are persons living with HIV/AIDS, who are victims of domestic violence, or are an unaccompanied child.
One of my favorite activities is reading. I enjoy reading books for work, for pleasure, to learn new skills, and to educate myself. I'm a happy member of the Friends of The Waukesha Library group, grateful to them for their efforts to keep our local library stocked with new books. I do end up buying some books, but being able to rent brand-new books for only dollars helps to keep my book budget in line.
As I mentioned in a past blog post, each year I aim to read two literary classics. I like to find used copies if possible so I can re-read these books before sending them on to their next owner. Several years ago I read about an online book exchange and became a member. www.paperbackswap.com/index.php This online swap community lists themselves as "the largest online book swapping community in the world." As I was writing this post their website noted that there were 1,336 members online at that moment.