Foothills Caring Corps Offers Critical Support to Residents

Volunteers and community partners help make it possible

Longtime FCC volunteer Caroline Turner

Imagine being able to live independently in one’s own home well into the golden years. It’s a dream for many, but the reality is that as people grow older, their needs become greater as resources begin to diminish. Activities like going to a doctor’s appointment or shopping for groceries become challenging when one no longer drives. Social life may suffer too, especially for those who are a widow or widower or a transplant from another state who may not have family nearby.

Fortunately, more than 2,500 people in the Phoenix area have been able to stay in their homes and live more fulfilling lives because of the nonprofit Foothills Caring Corps (FCC).

Since 1999, Carefree’s FCC has helped older adults and those with disabilities live independently while still being a part of the community. Those that the organization helps are referred to as “Neighbors.” These Neighbors live in the organization’s service area, which includes Carefree, Cave Creek, North Phoenix and North Scottsdale.

Executive director Debbra Determan says isolation and loneliness is something many seniors and others living on their own deal with all too often, and that the organization’s goal is, “to help Neighbors build their resources, so they are surrounded by support.”

Studies have shown that isolation can be detrimental to mental and physical health, often resulting in people being forced to leave their homes and move into care facilities. Eighty-five percent of FCC Neighbors live alone, but Determan says that even Neighbors who live with their children need social interaction or transportation — many seniors are home alone all day because their adult children are at work.

FCC’s services include medical transportation, van trips to social events, mobile meals, mobility equipment loans, pet therapy, friendly visiting and phoning, business/computer help, handyman services, caregiver relief, shopping assistance, a lock-box program and more.

History of Foothills Caring Corps
Gail Simmons and Father Steven Dart formed the start-up programs in 1999.  One year later, they received a start-up grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and to hire a small part-time staff.  They were then able to recruit more volunteers and were granted space in Christ Anglican Church. By 2003, the Caring Corps passed the 200-volunteer mark, and in 2004, the organization purchased its first 13-passenger van.

In 2006, Simmons retired and Determan took over as executive director. The year 2007 saw FCC reach a critical milestone. That year, the Caring Corps met the needs of 350 Neighbors with more than 33,000 volunteer hours. In 2009, the Foothills Caring Corps was officially registered as a 501(c)(3), and it established a Board of Directors.

The nonprofit organization moved to its current location in 2010, and later expanded and remodeled the space to accommodate expansive growth. In 2014, the organization served 740 Neighbors with 575 volunteers. One year later, they reached another milestone by raising $600,000, the most ever raised at that point.

Since its start-up beginnings in 1999, the organization has had steady growth in both the number of Neighbors served and the volunteers that have been recruited. Fast forward to 2019 when, as of October, FCC had provided 35,782 hours of service, which included more than 10,400 meals, 5,955 van trips and 4,438 medical-transportation trips.

Getting Started
All of these life-changing services begin with a phone call and an at-home visit by FCC assistant director — Volunteer and Neighbor manager, Nancy Cohrs. Cohrs meets with FCC applicants to make sure the organization is a good fit for them. With 230 plus new participants a year, Cohrs spends a good portion of her workday screening potential Neighbors. She says the organization helps people at a critical time in their lives, adding that the FCC motto — Hugs and Help Happen Here — really holds true.

“I do believe that our service and our volunteers make a huge impact on the community, allowing Neighbors to remain living independently,” she says.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Neighbors who want company can sign up for FCC’s friendly in-person visits or phone calls. They can also take a look at the monthly calendar that lists upcoming van trips. Neighbors are encouraged to sign up for activities that interest them, such as movies, bingo, the library, chair yoga, special events and more.

A van will accommodate five or six neighbors, the driver and the driver’s assistant. Neighbors receive help getting on and off the vans, five of which are equipped with ramps or lifts. The Caring Corps currently has nine vehicles.

Scottsdale resident Caroline Turner is one of several volunteers who drive Neighbors to doctor’s appointments or social events. The Caring Corps provides as many as 85 rides in one week.

“It’s so rewarding,” says Turner, who volunteers anywhere from 60 to 80 hours per month. “The neighbors are so inspiring. If a 90-year-old woman with an oxygen tank can get out and go to chair yoga…that’s amazing. I hope I can do that when I’m that age.”

While the average age of an FCC Neighbor is 82, not all of them are elderly. Scottsdale resident Nathan Holter, who is epileptic and legally blind, is a few decades younger than most of the Neighbors, but he doesn’t mind. He says the Neighbors he has met over the years have unofficially adopted him as their son or grandson.

When Holter and his parents moved to Arizona from Minnesota 10 years ago, he found he didn’t have much opportunity for social interaction with people outside his family. He went online looking for transportation and stumbled upon the van program.

“When I called about the van service, they said, ‘You know this van is primarily for the elderly, don’t you?’ And I said, so?”

Holter takes six to eight van trips per month — fewer in the summer months when many volunteers are away. “I have a whole lot more freedom with the van program, and I enjoy my life a lot more,” Holter says. “I’ve become more confident in myself. I really look forward to these trips.”

Neighbor Doris Rybarczyk moved to Arizona from Maryland in 2003 and has been participating in the van program for 15 years. Rybarczyk’s son lives nearby but works full time and is busy raising a daughter.

“I love it,” she says. “It has given me such a wonderful outlook on life. It gives you a chance to talk with different people and keep your mind active.”

Rybarczyk says once she experienced the FCC van program for the first time, she made sure to tell everyone in her apartment complex about it.

Many Neighbors become good friends on van trips and even exchange phone numbers so they can discuss future trips or just chat.

“When you’re lonely and isolated, that has an impact on your health. You can get depressed and have anxiety. Our goal is to enhance their lives and add social interaction and fun with safety in mind,” Cohrs says.

Regina Bonahoom, a Neighbor and Cave Creek resident, says the Caring Corps has made a huge impact on her life. After becoming a widow, she became less involved in the community and reached out to the nonprofit to help fill that void.

“It was a new chapter in my life, and, without the Foothills Caring Corps, I wouldn’t have known who to turn to,” she says. “I’ve made many new friends. We need to be with friends. That’s what gets us through.”

Krosby the therapy dog

Neighbors who appreciate “furry” friends, can also take part in the pet therapy program. Turner is one of the volunteers who brings her certified therapy dog to visit Neighbors.  Neighbors love visiting with her dog, Krosby.

Volunteer Power
While the Foothills Caring Corps has almost a dozen paid staff, the organization’s volunteers are critical to its success, with more than 1,600 registered volunteers, 475 of which are regularly active.

Cohrs facilitates most of the volunteer orientations and says people have many volunteer options, depending on their interests and the amount of time they can commit.

“Our volunteers are always telling us that they get so much out of the experience,” Cohrs says. “And the Neighbors could not be more grateful.”

Marian and Phil Abramowitz have been volunteering for 15 years. They work together delivering food for the mobile meals program. The organization delivers 60-70 meals per day, Monday through Friday. The food is prepared at Honor Health, Thompson Peak.

“The Neighbors love the food, and they are so grateful to us,” Marian says. “Every house we go to, they thank us over and over again.”

Cohrs says mobile meals is a critical FCC program. Not only do neighbors get a hot meal, but they also get a safety check. Neighbors in the program are required to answer the door and let the volunteer in the house. If no one comes to the door, FCC will call until the person answers. If they are unable to reach a Neighbor within a short period of time, FCC will call either the sheriff’s department or fire department to do a welfare check.

Volunteer Chuck Zontanos has been with FCC since 2005. He started as a driver and now serves as a driver’s assistant.

“Everybody we pick up has a story,” Zontanos says. “They have a lifetime of experience and some of the stories are remarkable.”

The first Neighbor Zontanos ever drove to the doctor was a French woman with a background straight out of a novel. During the ride, she shared that she had worked for the French underground during World War II and helped smuggle Jews over the border into France. She was eventually turned in to authorities by her neighbors, and she spent two years in a German prisoner of war camp. Another woman Zontanos met flew U.S. military planes fresh off the assembly line to make sure they were ready for battle overseas during World War II.

“Everybody has a story,” Zontanos says. “It’s a great pleasure hearing where everybody is from and getting to know them.”

Many of FCC’s volunteers says that while they are the ones donating their time, they feel like they get more out of the experience than they put in.

“Every day I volunteer, I give back to someone,” Turner says. “I can’t imagine what I would do without the Caring Corps in my life.”

To recognize the impact that they have made, all past and present volunteers are invited to celebrate 20 years of the Foothills Caring Corps at a reunion / volunteer appreciation celebration, which will take place in early 2020. The event will include an awards presentation and recognition of volunteers and the debut a video that documents the organization’s history. Food and beverages will be provided.

It Takes a Village
While FCC wants as many people as possible to know about the program, more Neighbors means an increased demand for volunteers and funding. The organization occasionally receives grants for various programs, but the majority of its funds come from private donations.

Also vital to the organization is the support of its community partners and residents. In late November, they partnered with the Town of Carefree and Kiwanis Club of Carefree to launch the “Season for Caring” initiative benefiting the many deserving seniors in the area. Residents are invited to help FCC “bring joy, friendship and a holiday gift to our Neighbors,” says Determan. [Read Season for Caring on page 23.]

The nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization raised $650,000 in 2018–19 and hopes to meet its goal of $720,000 in 2019–20. Community members who would like to help support FCC in its mission can learn more at www.foothillscaringcorps.com.

Foothills Caring Corps Seeks Volunteers

Binka Schwan, volunteer, and her certified therapy dog, Rascal

Join a growing and thriving community

Studies show volunteering provides a boost to one’s self-confidence, self-esteem and overall life satisfaction. Doing good things for others in the community provides a natural sense of accomplishment, and a sense of pride and loyalty.

Ask Carefree-based nonprofit Foothills Caring Corps volunteers how they feel, and they echo the same sentiment.

Binka Schwan, who leads the Friendly Pet Visiting program for the 501(c)(3) organization says, “To be able to give back to my community gives me such great satisfaction. The joy my two therapy dogs, Rascal and Maizee, bring to our Foothills Caring Corps Neighbors is equal to my own joy as a volunteer.”

Schwan, a long time Foothills Caring Corps supporter, is one of the organization’s nearly 600 volunteers who provide the community with a variety of invaluable services including friendly people and pet visits, mobile meals, an expansive mobility equipment loan closet, help with computers and paperwork, handyman services, shopping assistance, medical and van transportation, health advocacy and more.

Last year alone, the nonprofit organization’s volunteer force logged nearly 36,000 hours helping to promote independence and enhance the quality of life for elderly residents in the Northeast Valley.

“It is a pleasure to see our volunteers work together for the community’s greater good. The personal connections they make strengthen our Neighbor’s lives as well as the volunteer’s own wellbeing,” said Executive Director Debbra Determan.

“Based on a volunteers’ schedule, favorite things to do and skill set, the Foothills Caring Corps staff will find the perfect way each individual can serve our Neighbors. Our volunteers report a highly rewarding experience that fits easily into their schedules because of the many choices that are available for them,” says Determan.

Those who are interested in volunteering are invited to attend a monthly orientation on the second Thursday of each month, 9–11am, at the Caring Corps offices, 7275 East Easy Street, Suite B106, in Carefree, or call 480.488.1105 for more information. Learn more about Foothills Caring Corps at http://www.foothillscaringcorps.com.

Join Your Neighbors For Food, Music & Fun

The Town of Carefree, in the spirit of friendship and celebration, will hold its inaugural Community Block Party Saturday, April 7, from 3pm to 7pm. The Block Party will take place in Downtown Carefree along Easy Street and the Sanderson Lincoln Pavilion.

Carefree residents, Foothills neighbors, businesses and nonprofits of the Town are all invited to join in on the food, music, activities and fun for all ages. Entrance is free. The cost for a meal ticket is $6 and includes a hamburger, hotdog, chili, various side dishes and one non-alcoholic drink. There will be other items for purchase such as ice cream.

A highlight of the day will be the Town’s first official hot dog eating competition, which is scheduled for 4pm and will feature Nathan’s Famous hot dogs.

“Carefree isn’t a stranger to food eating contests even though this is our first hot dog competition. For the past three years, our pumpkin pie eating contests are heavily attended at the Enchanted Pumpkin Garden Festival. Most people think they can eat a lot but when it comes down to doing it, most eager eaters get sick or withdraw,” shares Director of Marketing, Gina Kaegi. “We thank Nathan’s for their generous hot dog donation that will be featured in the event and look forward to crowning our first Carefree top dog winner with an official trophy and the notoriety that comes with it.”

In addition to the hot dog eating contest, guests can enjoy a dunk tank, Corn Hole Tournament, a beer and wine garden, plus the grilling of hamburgers and hotdogs. The Kiwanis Splash Pad will also be open along with other activities such as free face painting, a music DJ, Zumba, karate, mini putt golf, kid’s lemonade stand by the Desert Foothills YMCA, raffle prizes/baskets and more.

“This will be a good time to reminisce with friends, meet new neighbors and enjoy our downtown business district. We hope this becomes an annual tradition,” said Les Peterson, mayor of Carefree.

Sponsors of the event include 4CMedical Group, Edward Jones, Tyrol Title, Liberty Utilities, Ted Phillip Denton Contemporary Art and Happy Fitness with Patricia. Participating local restaurants include Corrado’s Italiana Cucina, Carefree Coffee Roastery, The Meat Market, Black Mountain Coffee Shop and Café and Venues Café. Nonprofits and partners also benefiting include Carefree Cave Creek Chamber of Commerce, Carefree Water Company, Desert Foothills Foodbank, Desert Foothills YMCA and Foothills Caring Corps.

RSVP’s are suggested; send an email to events@carefree.org. Local businesses that want to attend and/or volunteer, should send an email to vicki@carefree.org or call 480.488.3686.

Caring Corps Set To Host Annual Fundraiser

Proceeds will support elderly independence services

Area residents are invited to an evening of epicurean delights for a good cause, as the Foothills Caring Corps presents its 14th Annual Taste of Foothills Fundraiser, March 15.

The Taste of Foothills Fundraiser helps support the Caring Corps’ mission to promote elderly independence and is a vital contributor to the nonprofit’s diverse selection of programs and services.

“We are so grateful for the community’s generosity at the Taste of Foothills Fundraiser. With each admission ticket purchase, you make a generous contribution to support services promoting elderly independence and help the Caring Corps to meet the growing need for these services,” said Debbra Determan executive director of Foothills Caring Corps.

Terri Ouellette

TV personality and native Phoenician Terri Ouellette, host of “Sonoran Living” on ABC15, will serve as MC for the event. “Terri O” has entertained and educated viewers for more than 20 years on the morning news, hosting several lifestyle shows and in her book, Easy Embellishing with Terri O. Besides sharing her passion for creativity, Ouellette also has a passion for helping people learn how to live life to the fullest.

Guests will enjoy a festive evening filled with sweet and savory tastings from local restaurants. Participating restaurants include Bryan’s Black Mountain Barbecue, Carvalho’s Brazilian Kitchen, Civana Carefree, It’s a Divine Bakery, Harold’s Cave Creek Corral, The Herb Box, Liberty Station and Venues Café.

Kilted Spirit

Auctioneer Jonathan Blair will offer a chance at prizes, as well as local and travel experiences. Attendees will hear musical entertainment by Kilted Spirit. Since 2010 Kilted Spirit has charmed Phoenix with a unique blend of Celtic sound, bringing an Irish flair to popular and classic dance. Their eclectic mix of instruments and boundless enthusiasm bring fun and excitement to every show.

The popular wine table is back offering guests the opportunity to win an entire table filled with wine bottles and accessories.

The social event and fundraiser will take place 5–8:30pm Thursday, March 15, at Stagecoach Village, 7100 East Cave Creek Road in Cave Creek. General admission is $50 per person. The $1,000 VIP admission provides tickets for 10 and a reserved group table. All proceeds benefit the volunteer-based nonprofit. Purchase tickets by calling Foothills Caring Corps at 480.488.1105 or visit www.foothillscaringcorps.com/events.

Get Proactive About Wellness

Health & Resources Expo 2017

Area residents will have the opportunity to connect with more than 40 local health and wellness resources serving the community at the Health & Resources Expo January 28. The free, family-friendly event will be hosted at Cactus Shadows High School’s Fine Arts Center, 33606 North 60th Street in Scottsdale, from 10am-2pm.

A festive event aimed at promoting and providing resources for proactive wellness, the expo offers education and activities for all ages, from infants to seniors. Interactive demonstrations, speakers and fitness activities are just part of the fun. Highlights include pneumonia and flu immunizations from Walgreen’s, on-site health and nutrition experts, discussions on avoiding scams, improving car seat safety, bicycle safety, home safety, Internet safety and much more. In addition, a food truck will be on site with healthy lunch offerings.

famili doing yogaKids will love the Little Kickers, Jubilate music program and POW (super hero stretches). Adults will appreciate learning about Chair Yoga, improving brain function, avoiding drug interactions, in-home services for seniors or informative tips on “Fall Injury Prevention and Fall Recovery,” with physical therapist Cynthia Driskell.

“The expo is chock-full of fun for everyone, and offers relevant information and activities for all,” says Debbra Determan of the Foothills Caring Corps. “It is important for residents to know about the many resources available. The non-profit and business communities have come together to provide information in a unique way that is free and fun for the entire family.”

Further highlights include learning to spot fraud and elder abuse, along with tips on how to prevent identity theft, U.S. military veteran assistance, and other topics. The Maricopa County Human Services Department will provide information on in-home services for senior citizens, utility assessments and APS account reviews.

The community-wide event is organized by Honor Health, the Foothills Caring Corps, the Foothills Foodbank, the Town of Cave Creek, the Desert Foothills Library, the Cave Creek Unified School District, the Desert Foothills Family YMCA, Carefree Physical Therapy, Maricopa County District Attorney’s office, Jewish Family & Children’s Services, Scottsdale Human Services, the Town of Carefree and Paradise Valley Community College, among others.

For more information, call 480.488.1105 or visit www.foothillscaringcorps.com.

Former Carefree Mayor Named “Humanitarian of the Year”

MayorFoothills Caring Corps announced that David Schwan is the recipient of its 2016 Humanitarian of the Year Award. Schwan will be honored at the much anticipated fundraiser and social event, the Taste of the Foothills Celebration and Cash & Caring Raffle March 31, at el Pedregal.

“We are thrilled to shine a bright spotlight on David Schwan’s many years of generous support of the Foothills Caring Corps’ mission to promote elderly independence,” says Foothills Caring Corps executive director, Debbra Determan.

Schwan is best known for his time as mayor of Carefree. He is also well known for supporting many community programs in the Carefree, Cave Creek and Scottsdale area. In the early years of the Foothills Caring Corps, he helped keep the computers and software functional and efficient. Later, he served on the advisory board and board of directors.

The Taste of the Foothills Celebration [click here to see full story on page 45] has evolved into a benchmark nonprofit event. The evening festivities feature mouthwatering tastings from local restaurants, live and silent auctions, as well as on stage music performances. Learn more at www.foothillscaringcorps.com.

Helping Those Who Help Others

Caring Corps in need of volunteers

FoothillsCaringCorpBy Kathryn M. Miller ~ When older North Valley neighbors are in need, it is comforting to know that there is an organization, and a team of dedicated volunteers, ready and able to be of service.

Originally established by Father Steven Dart and Gail Simmons, who worked together to develop a Northeast Valley Faith in Action program to help older adults remain living independently in their own homes, and now known as Foothills Caring Corps (FCC), the organization is in its 15th year. It remains dedicated to promoting independence and enhancing the quality of life for older residents throughout the community. They do this through a force of volunteers and staff who deliver services and support that provide access to basic needs such as food, medical care and activities that promote physical, mental and emotional health.
During the 2013-14 year, that volunteer force logged 42,874 hours, and served 740 “neighbors” – but there is always a need for more volunteers, and during the busy holiday season, that need is magnified.

FCC“During the holidays our main focus is getting people to and from their medical appointments, grocery shopping, holiday shopping, getting them to some local activities i.e., concerts; holiday events – including the Carefree Holiday Lights Parade – serving them with hot noon meals through our Mobile Meals program and helping them to plan for their celebrations regardless of big or small for the holidays,” explains Debbra Determan, executive director, Foothills Caring Corps. “FCC has in the past several years planned a holiday gift program where through the generosity of contributors we bring wrapped gifts to some of our neighbors who will be celebrating the holidays alone. Volunteers make a trip out to our neighbor’s homes to give them a gift that will let them know they are loved and appreciated.” |CST

Volunteers Needed To Make A Difference

FoothillsThe Foothills Caring Corps, a volunteer based non-profit organization serving the greater Northeast Valley, is seeking volunteers to share their talent, skills and time with the organization whose primary mission is to allow the elderly to remain independent and living in their homes.

Volunteers needed for such programs as:

  • Van transportation
  • Medical transportation
  • Mobile meals
  • Minor home repair
  • Friendly visits
  • Medical loan closet

The Foothills Caring Corps aims to provide a rewarding and gratifying experience for both the volunteer and the neighbor. Volunteers are given training, guidance and monitoring to ensure a quality experience. They are allowed to self-select areas in which they would like to be involved and are not required to contribute a minimum number of hours.

“The Caring Corps opens their arms to people with a variety of skills levels, talent and interests. Everyone has an something to contribute,” says executive director Debbra Determan.

The organization conducts monthly Volunteer Orientation sessions. The next sessions are scheduled for Thursday, May 14, from 9-11am at the Foothills Caring Corps offices located at 7275 East Easy Street, Suite B103, Carefree.

For more information, or to RSVP, call the Foothills Caring Corps at 480.488.1105. For additional information, visit www.foothillscaringcorps.com.

Caring Corps Celebrates Fifteen Years

FoothillsCaringCorp

Foothills Caring Corps has served elderly neighbors throughout Carefree, Cave Creek, North Scottsdale and North Phoenix for 15 years. The Caring Corps volunteers offer grocery shopping assistance, mobile meals, pet visiting, computer assistance, van service and much more. In 2013-14, the organization’s 575 volunteers donated more than 42,000 hours to assist 740 residents within Maricopa County. Nearly 7,000 mobile meals were delivered and over 7,300 van trips and medical transports made.

In February, the local nonprofit looks forward to celebrating its 15 year milestone with the community. Executive director Debbra Determan, who has overseen the Caring Corps since 2006, invites the community to learn more about its history, achievements, expansive programs and continued services as it hosts the “Save A Place in Your Heart” anniversary event. The free event includes light refreshments and live music Sunday, February 15, from 12-4pm.

The event will be educational as well as celebratory. The open house will feature outdoor booths, manned by current volunteers, highlighting the Caring Corps’ varied services and programs that have developed over the years. Affinity, a 10-piece band, will perform live on stage at the Carefree Amphitheater from 1-3pm.

Foothills Caring Corps Headquarters is located at 7275 East Easy Street, Carefree. For more information, call 480.488.1105 or visit www.foothillscaringcorps.com.

Caring Corps “Neighbors” Health Care Outings

Timely health topics and a great lunch

Foothills-Caring-Corps

By Curtis Riggs ~ Foothills Caring Corps “neighbors” have placed Scottsdale Health Care (SHC) Thompson Peak trips at the top of its favorite’s list. Health care topics covered in the monthly luncheons range from skin cancer prevention to managing medications. Once in a while SCH massage therapists give the neighbors massages during the Friday luncheons. Foothills Caring Corps van transportation assistant Melissa Pryce says the Thompson Peak trips are popular because of the timeliness of the health topics.

SHC spokeswoman Joanne Gain says, the hospital loves hosting the neighbors’ every month. While health topics and lunch are good parts about the trips, the socialization among the neighbors could be the best party. To neighbor Nelle Caughron, getting together with her fellow neighbors is the highlight of any visit. For information, visit www.foothillscaringcorps.com. /CST

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