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Nonprofit Profile: Project Compassion brings joy to nursing homes
Times Record - 12/6/2018
Dec. 06--Nursing homes can be lonely for their residents, and one Fort Smith nonprofit for decades has filled the void.
Project Compassion Inc. looks to provide a caring presence for nursing home residents in the region who don't have family or friends to visit them. Volunteers at the nonprofit use a host of methods to bring joy to about 2,500 residents in the region, including their Hearts of Gold campaign during the holidays.
Project Compassion executive director Marian Conrad estimated 68 percent of nursing home residents don't have visitors. Gloria White, who founded the organization in 1972, noticed this discrepancy when she visited a nursing home, Conrad said.
The nonprofit now serves 26 facilities in Sebastian, Crawford, Sequoyah, LeFlore, Franklin and Logan counties.
Conrad said Project Compassion's volunteers serve the residents through one-to-one visits with residents and through one of several programs. These include a letter-writing program, pet therapy and "Grandfriends," which pairs children ages 5 to 17 with residents.
Another program from Project Compassion is "fidget quilts" -- quilts with textiles, activities and visuals for residents with Alzheimer's Disease or Dementia. Volunteer Patricia Fellner said one woman who received a fidget quilt spoke after she interacted with her gift.
"She was more aware than she had been prior," Fellner said.
"We've heard stories about residents being very agitated and not being able to calm down. They've been given a fidget quilt, and it changed everything. They were more relaxed," Fellner said.
Volunteers during the nonprofit's Hearts of Gold campaign take donations through Dec. 18 for wish list items from residents at the nursing homes. The volunteers then give the packages to the nursing home staffs, who give them to the residents at a Christmas party at the facility.
Conrad said the nonprofit is especially busy around the holidays because of Hearts of Gold. Volunteer Carolyn Abbott said she first heard of Project Compassion because of the initiative.
"I saw it in the newspaper, the Hearts of Gold campaign, and I just thought, 'That is something I would like to do,'" said Abbott. Abbott now volunteers in other Project Compassion initiatives.
Though Abbott spoke well of other Project Compassion initiatives, she specifically said Hearts of Gold is fulfilling for her.
"I'll never meet these residents, but it's kind of a small gratification that on Christmas Morning or whenever they have their Christmas party, they'll receive something that we put together," Abbott said.
To donate new, unwrapped items for the Hearts of Gold program, stop by the Project Compassion office at 1205 S. Albert Pike Ave. (Trinity Junior High School), all Simmons Bank branches or Hampton Inn-Van Buren.
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