Sunday, June 30, 2002

Good News: Volunteer has visits to spare

        Each day, Charles McKinney's schedule includes visiting a nursing home or a veterans hospital.

        The Blanchester man runs his own general cleaning business to make a living, but his real passion in life is consoling the sick and shut in.

        “There are so many people in nursing homes and veterans hospitals who don't have anybody to visit them,” Mr. McKinney said. “I think it is disgusting that they are left that way. They are lonely and need someone to talk to. I wished everyone would visit them like I do,” he said. “I know every person has at least two or three hours they can spare to pay a visit to a nursing home or a VA hospital.”

        Well, maybe. But most people didn't grow up with this kind of passion. It started with Mr. McKinney when he was rejected for military service because he is legally blind in one eye.

        “Since then I promised I would do what I could to help veterans anyway I could,” he said.

        He started by joining a Sons of Veterans Group, the American Legion Post, Halker Flege Squadron number 69.

        Last week, the group gave the residents at Columbia Health Care Center in Reading a picnic.

        “We gave them hot dogs, pop, gifts, T-shirts, stuffed animals, socks and conducted a bingo game. We felt this was something they needed,” said Mr. McKinney.

        Thelma Harris, director of activities at the center, said the picnic was a beautiful thing.

        “I have never seen so many people so happy,” she said. “We take good care of them here, but they need that community connection. I was overwhelmed.”

        Mr. McKinney has been visiting the center every day.

        “I go because they enjoy my coming there. I will sit and talk to anyone who wants to talk,” he said.

        One person who depends on his daily visits is Nancy Holcomb who has been at the center for about eight months.

        “He is my outside connection,” she said. “If I need anything I just call him and he brings it. He also brings me news and gossip.”

        The Mental Health Association's Warren County Compeer Program is looking for volunteers to operate a Skillbuilders program.

        Rosalyn Dadas, coordinator of the Warren County Compeer, said the national office has asked her office to start the program.

        “What we need are volunteers to work several hours a week to teach informational sessions,” Ms. Dadas said. “We will have sessions on animals, music appreciation, craft and maybe teach them something about money management. Some of our clients may have lost out on learning how to manage money before they became mentally ill.”

        Compeer is an international program matching trained community volunteers in friendship relationships with individuals with brain disorders and mental illnesses.

        Usually, volunteers make a one-year commitment with the agency, Ms.Dadas said.

        “In the Skillbuilders program, they are not required to make a one-year commitment. The sessions can be held weekdays or weekends at a time convenient for the instructor,” she said. To volunteer, call 459-9551 or 1-800-478-3505.

        Allen Howard's “Some Good News” column runs Sunday-Friday. If you have suggestions about outstanding achievements, or people who are uplifting to the Tristate, let him know at 768-8362, at or by fax at 768-8340.


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