Message From Secretary Richard Prudom, April 2021
April is National Volunteer Month – a perfect time for the Department of Elder Affairs (DOEA) to recognize the impact of senior volunteers and their notable contributions to our state. With one of the nation’s largest concentrations of residents 65 or older, Florida relies on a network of committed volunteers and professionals to deliver services in our communities.
Throughout the pandemic, DOEA’s 11 Area Agencies on Aging worked with volunteers to help provide home-delivered meals to Florida’s most vulnerable population. Meal delivery relieved the social isolation of seniors by providing the simple interaction of food delivery to the doorstep of an elder. Volunteers helped distribute over 18 million home-delivered meals statewide. Recently Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said, “The state of Florida remains focused on the Seniors First initiative and that includes ensuring older adults have safe access to food through home-delivered meals.”
Another program administered through DOEA’s 11 Area Agencies on Aging is the Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders (SHINE) Program. Through a statewide network of trained volunteer counselors, the SHINE Program assists with Medicare, Medicaid, and health insurance questions by providing one-on-one counseling and information; services are free, unbiased, and confidential. SHINE volunteers are an integral piece of the DOEA’s success and outreach method to beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers. To inquire about becoming a SHINE volunteer, visit FloridaShine.org and click “Join the Team.”
Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program (LTCOP) is a network of trained volunteers whose focus is to improve the quality of care and life for residents of long-term care facilities. Ombudsmen are community members who advocate for residents. The volunteers are trained to work with residents and their family members to communicate concerns and resolve problems by providing advocacy, support, education, and empowerment. The volunteer ombudsmen are the heart of LTCOP and make a difference in the lives of people who may be elderly and/or living with a disability. To inquire about becoming an ombudsmen volunteer, visit ombudsman.myflorida.com/Volunteer.
In November 2019, as part of First Lady DeSantis’ Hope for Healing Florida initiative, Volunteer Connect launched as a one-stop platform for all Floridians to engage in community service. “Volunteers provide a unique service by helping others and contributing to our communities. Volunteering is a fundamental civic responsibility that benefits all and really binds our communities together,” said First Lady Casey DeSantis.
Florida’s 5.5 million older adults are valued members of our communities and deserve the opportunity to live well and lead healthier lives. Through the work of volunteers, the state of Florida and the DOEA are able to foster an environment where seniors can live well and age well. I hope this National Volunteer Month inspires more people to connect with their community and volunteer in a capacity they are comfortable with.