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Young at Heart Mar final

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I-You...continued from page 1 pandemic canceled the picnic, "…last summer Nancy brought decora- tions, cookies, and ice cream so we could have a fun, safe, outdoor party at Westwind. Everyone enjoyed it, including our staff," adds Lynnette, who retired from her position in February. "It is difficult to put into words how much the staff and residents of Westwind Memory Care appreciate the kindness and gener- osity of I-You-Venture. Ever since the opening of our facility in 2017, the program has pro- vided Westwind with quality volunteers and donated items to keep our activity department the very best it can be. During the COVID-19 and local wildfire crises, I-You-Venture gathered from the community beautifully hand-crafted cards and letters to cheer residents," says Lynnette. "They also provided art supplies, edible treats, pen pal addresses, and various workbooks to keep residents happy and occupied when we were in lockdown. Their gen- erosity not only lifted the spirits of our residents but also gave encourage- ment to our weary staff members." Cynthia Reader, Activ- ities Director at Pacific Coast Manor, says she and the residents are deeply appreciative and grateful for I-You Ven- ture including the 2021 Ice Cream Day. "A heartfelt thank you for the generous portion of delicious ice cream with all the top- pings, and cookies, pro- vided to us. The residents had a fantastic time, and the weather was beautiful. In addition, the residents and staff want to personal- ly thank Nancy for support during the pandemic bringing in lovely hand- written cards with encour- aging messages, and much more," says Cynthia. "As we were met here at PCM with challenges during the outbreak, these gifts meant so much and brought smiles to many." The Holiday Helper program has been in place for over 30 years. Every December, volunteers gen- erously purchase gifts for men and women; in 2021 these included slipper socks, shirts, lap blankets, scarves, stuffed animals, lotions, and calendars. I-You Venture collects and gives these gifts to residents. Last year they distributed over 1,700 gifts to 1,000 care facility residents. Nancy and everyone at I-You Venture are looking forward to a time, hope- fully in the near future, where facilities are open to in-person visitors once again. "Visiting and talking with seniors is one of my great joys in life, and I love bringing a smile to their faces!" It seems that Nancy's positive attitude and friendliness, and the organization's suc- cessful programs, have permeated our commu- nity. "Even before the pandemic, their support was important," says Lynnette. "It is my be- lief that our senior citi- zens can use all the love and support they can get outside their own fam- ilies and the facilities where they reside. I-You Venture provides con- nections with the local community and gives community members of all ages the opportunity to experience the joy of giving and caring for others—which I believe is one of the sources of true happiness. I cannot speak highly enough of this vital organization." If you're interested in volunteering, I-You Venture can always use extra hands and hearts, even if you only have a little bit of time. For example, most people like to receive mail, so how about signing a few "Thinking of You" cards? This is a year-round opportunity; although they make sure to deliver cards and gifts during holidays, they also distribute cards each month to various facilities. To find out more, contact Nancy Cleveland at 831-459- 8917, Ext 205 or cleve- land.n@fsa-cc.org). Also, the Santa Cruz Volunteer Center (scvolunteercenter. org) often lists volun- teer opportunities for I-You Venture and other worthwhile programs in our county. Website: https://fsa-cc. org/i-you-venture Looking for Housing? By Senior Network Services Looking for Housing but don't know how to get started? Come join us at Senior Network Services for our free monthly Housing Nav- igation Workshop held the first Friday of every month from 10am-12pm at our office located at 1777- A Capitola Rd. Santa Cruz, CA. 95062. As a feature of the Housing Division at Senior network services (SNS), the Housing Navigation Program supports the process of home seeking. During the workshop, our highly trained staff will discuss different options for con- ducting housing searches as well as assist seniors and people living with disabilities get online and look for housing. Bring the device (phone or computer) you plan to use for your housing search! Every workshop runs for two hours with the first hour spent dis- cussing housing options for seniors throughout Santa Cruz County and providing hands-on tech- nology support for those struggling to get online. We will dedicate the second hour to perform- ing housing searches and exploring the different housing options available in our community. This is a great opportunity to receive in-person hous- ing search assistance from trained housing professionals! Each participant will receive a FREE Housing Options Booklet, Senior Resource Directory, and a list of valuable tips and tricks for conduct- ing successful housing searches. Please dress in layers as the workshop will be held outside. Refreshments will be provided. This is a FREE work- shop but registration is required as space is limited to 6 participants. Masks are required to attend the workshop. To register, please call the Senior Network Ser- vices Housing Division at (831)462-6788. Senior Network Ser- vices is a multipurpose agency that strives to support the well-being and resilience of indi- viduals aged 60 and over and their families. Serv- ing the community since 1974, SNS provides support and resources to local seniors and their loved ones through six unique programs: Infor- mation & Assistance, Medicare Counseling (HICAP), Case Manage- ment, Respite, Senior Housing and Money Management. Serving over 12,000 clients each year, Senior Network Services is the one-stop agency for addressing the needs of older adults in Santa Cruz County. For more information or assistance, please call 831-462-1433 or visit our website at www.senior- networkservices.org. One volunteer's profound journey By Sally Green, Hospice of Santa Cruz County Born in Mexico, Irma Vega emigrated with her parents and younger brother to Pescadero at a young age. Her parents, Apolonio and Lourdes, worked very hard to forge a life for their family, raising five children along the North Coast of Santa Cruz County. Irma is a beautiful reflection of her parents. Nurturing, resilient, fierce, and thoughtful, she is a woman of integrity and heart. As a caregiver to her parents at their life's end and a volunteer grief support counselor, Irma's perspective on hospice is grounded in profound knowing. But,this was not always the case. "In late 2005, when my mamá was diagnosed with cancer and given 6-8 months to live, her oncologist recommended hospice. I was unaware," says Irma. "People around me didn't embrace death. I always heard them say 'If I die,' versus 'When I die.' My father strongly opposed talking about death with Mamá. Being the woman she was, Mamá asked the doctor directly about her prognosis." As the eldest among her siblings, Irma made the call to Hospice of Santa Cruz County. "Our family felt incredibly supported. My mamá loved her volunteer visitor and nurses," shared Irma. "She knew that they were there to care for her and to guide us because sometimes we didn't know what to do. Papá saw all the help and was grateful but didn't want to talk about it." "When my mamá died, I was heartbroken. She was only 68. I was relieved that she was out of pain and suffering, but I felt intense loss. I knew that I wanted to give back for the care she received," says Irma. After 18 months, Irma went through Hospice of Santa Cruz County's Grief Support Volunteer training and began to provide one- to-one counseling. "The gift I receive as a support person is so fulfilling and deep," says Irma. "I believe our souls become richer when we're with others who are suffering." In 2017, Irma needed a break from her volun- teer role. Her father had become quite ill. With her husband's support, Irma moved in with her dad to become his primary caregiver. With her fa- ther's blessing, they called hospice to help. "Papá's nurse and aid were so caring. Dad would joke. They would joke. He was treated as a man, not his illness. It was a beautiful relationship." When asked if hos- pice allowed Irma to be a daughter, not solely a caregiver to her father, she replied, "I never ever lost the feeling that I was his daughter. I was privileged to take care of him. Hos- pice being there allowed me to relax a little bit and be present." In Novem- ber 2019, Apolonio died in the loving care of his family. Last Spring, Irma felt ready to begin volunteer- ing again. "I have a desire to connect with someone and walk that road with them. I can affirm that it is hard and that there are also many positive things to learn from our experi- ences," shared Irma. "When our time runs out, it runs out. There's no, 'Wait. Let me rewind. Let me pause.' We can end up living with regrets and sadness because of missed opportunities. Hospice gave me the opportunity to mend re- lationships; to share time with each and both of my parents. It is a priceless gift. After a death, hospice offers a chance to heal, smile again, and focus on memories, not so much on the loss," says Irma. If you're wondering about the right time to seek hos- pice care for you or your loved one, call Hospice of Santa Cruz County at (831) 430-3000. It is not a com- mitment, only an oppor- tunity to learn about your options and become more prepared. You may also call if you're interested in becoming a volun- teer visitor like Irma. If you're not sure if this type of volunteering is right for you, sign up for a half-hour informational Q&A session April 5 or 6 at hospicesantacruz.org/ volunteer/volunteer-vis- itors/. Contributed photo Westwind Memory Care resident receiving gift courtesy of I-You Venture Westwind Memory Care resident opening gift from I-You Venture Westwind employees passing out gifts from I-You Venture

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