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Local

DeKalb County Family Service Agency seeks mentors, senior companions; plans to launch new programs

Family Service Agency seeks mentors, senior companions; plans to launch new programs

Big Brother Big Sister volunteer Dan Rey of DeKalb watches as his little, Xander Roed of Sycamore, 13, plays a pinball game Jan. 24 at the Huskie Den inside the Holmes Student Center at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
Big Brother Big Sister volunteer Dan Rey of DeKalb watches as his little, Xander Roed of Sycamore, 13, plays a pinball game Jan. 24 at the Huskie Den inside the Holmes Student Center at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

DeKALB – An open house Wednesday evening at Family Service Agency will teach potential volunteers how they could play a role in the life of a youngster who needs a buddy, or an older member of the community who needs a buddy.

FSA is in the process of rolling out a new program, Senior Connections, through which residents are matched with seniors to bring more socialization, companionship and fun to their lives.

Erin Tamms, FSA’s community programs director, said three volunteers are undergoing the vetting process, but there are 10 seniors who have been referred for the program. She’d like to get to a place where the volunteers outnumber the referrals, so seniors can get paired up immediately.

“It’s hard, sometimes, for the older adult who is to receive services,” Tamms said. “They’re wanting to have someone right away, and if they have to wait, they can get disinterested.”

FSA’s Youth Mentoring program, formerly Big Brothers, Big Sisters, is also constantly trying to bolster its volunteer base. The agency cut ties with BBBS last year, but not much changes except its jurisdiction, Tamms said. Whereas before volunteers had to live in DeKalb County, they can now live outside the county boundaries.

“I’ve got two volunteers from Hampshire, actually,” Tamms said.

The screening process takes about six weeks, Tamms has said. She said mentors and mentees can spend time in a variety of ways, and that if someone doesn’t have lots of time to volunteer, simply becoming a lunch buddy can make a huge difference in a youngster’s life.

If you think those programs are neat, FSA is launching a new program in Sandwich that brings “the best of worlds,” in Tamm’s words. Through a partnership with Fox Valley Older Adult Services, Voluntary Action Center and Sandwich School District 430, a mentoring service matching seniors and youth is in the works. Tamms said throughout two-hour visits, the youth-senior partners will do anything from working together on homework to playing board games.

“The young is learning from the old, and the old is learning from the young,” Tamms said. “Active older adults want to be active, and they like to have their schedules busy and give back.”

The open house will be from 6 to 7 p.m. at FSA’s office, 14 Health Services Drive, and a news release from FSA emphasizes that the event is for informational purposes only, and that no commitment is required. A youth mentor will be there to share their experiences.

For information, to refer someone for the Senior Connections program, or to get involved with any of FSA’s programs, call Stephanie Severing, community programs coordinator, at 815-758-8616.

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