Respite center provides stimulation through creativity

Becky Wolverton, of Woodstock, assembles a penguin for the bulletin board at Our Place in Edinburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

EDINBURG – Linda Olsen, organizer of Our Place Shenandoah, has set up a creative environment for individuals with changing needs through art, music and time with people who care.

“We plan our activities to encourage people to do their best,” Olsen said. “By creating them, we continue to maximize their remaining skills and interests, while exercising their mind and body in ways that help lessen physical aliments and slow memory loss.”

Our Place was organized over 15 years ago to take the pressure off caregivers. “It’s probably the best kept secret in the valley,” Olsen said. As a group respite center operating within Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, Our Place allows those with various illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia a place to go where caregivers know they’ll receive cost-effective dependable care, peace of mind and attention that makes a difference for a few hours a day three days a week.

Vera Blum, 88, started volunteering at Our Place three years ago when she moved to Edinburg.

“I look forward to coming,” Blum said. “More so because I’ve always given back to the community in one way or another. And I want to continue doing it.

Jim Costie, 83, of Mount Jackson, holds a penguin that will find a home on the bulletin board at the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging's Our Place at St. Johns United Methodist Church in Edinburg. Rich Cooley/Daily

“When I discovered this program at St. John’s, I knew it was perfect for me,” she said.

Blum volunteers two days a week, or as often as she can. “Being 88 hasn’t stopped me yet.”

Probably their most popular activity is the changing of the bulletin boards on a monthly basis. “We design them depending on the holiday or season,” Olsen said. “It’s a fun activity that allows creativity through artistic stimulation.” No art project is tossed to the side. Each one is proudly displayed for a month in the community room.

Other activities include indoor soccer, gardening and even bowling in Front Royal for the Alzheimer’s Association. “We give back as much as possible,” Olsen said.

The program is made up of seven individuals needing care, two volunteers and two staff members. It’s open to the public and is valuable to the community, Olsen said.

Olsen has been organizing and volunteering her time for over four years. “It’s important to be able to provide this tool for caregivers,” she said. “A lot of them are under constant pressure and stress. Our Place allows them the opportunity to care for themselves for a few hours a day while knowing their loved one is in good hands.”

Olsen said she hopes more caregivers will take advantage of the program in the future. “A lot of people aren’t aware of it,” she said. “And as far as we know, it’s the only one in our area.”

There is also a need for more volunteers, Olsen said. “You can never have too many helpful hands.” Volunteer opportunities include craft assistance, socialization, entertainment and fundraising.

“We’re like a big family here, “ Olsen said. “The most important aspect of our group is to allow the participants to continue to be who they are.”

Our Place community outreach includes local support groups, information, referral and educational materials.

For more information on Our Place, contact Charity Michael, care manager, at 540-551-5696.

Our Place is located at 116 S High St., Edinburg.