Interfaith Caregivers (IFC) opened their doors in April, 1997. Jean Bierly, our first director, had nothing but a table, chair, telephone, used computer, some plastic “file cabinets”. . . and a vision: to establish a network of trained volunteers to help seniors in Faribault Co. with non-medical needs, so that they could live in their own homes safely and as independently as possible.
Soon, we received a $25,000 start-up grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, began to receive community support, and came under the auspices of United Hospital District, through which we received office space and accounting services. Initial services provided by IFC included transportation, friendly visiting, and light chores and cleaning. We were the third organization in southern Minnesota to provide these kinds of services to the elderly. Ten years later, there were 50 such organizations.
In October 1998, we received our first grant from Region 9 Area Agency on Aging, which allowed us to hire a part-time coordinator of our telephone re-assurance program. This program focused on seniors who were living alone to provide encouragement, friendship, and referral services.
By 2000, we had over 80 volunteers who had logged nearly 10,000 hours of service to our communities. Interfaith Caregivers was well-known and respected. The Faribault County Commissioners declared February 2000 as “Interfaith Volunteer Caregiving” month!
From 2000 to 2007, IFC thrived under the leadership of Jean Bierly. Two part-time employees were employed to assist in training and coordinating volunteers, and to implement new programs. In addition, MN Valley Action Council provided us with a part time office administrator, Dorothy Nassen. By 2014, our personnel make-up has once again changed. We have increased staff services hours and included a part-time staff responsible for coordinating marketing and grant writing.
Over the years we have established Care Teams in local congregations across the county which focused care not only on members of those congregations, but to any member of the community. We have also added our Caregiving Coaching Program, which offers assistance, training and support to more than 60 non-professional caregivers for seniors living across the county. And, in 2006, our Life Transitions Mentoring Program was established to help seniors transition to living at home after brief nursing home or extended hospital placements.
By the end of our first decade, IFC had grown from 30 volunteers and 49 clients to 190 volunteers and 205 clients. We became a member of the National Volunteer Care giving Network and had developed partnerships with other Faith in Action programs and the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging (Region 9). Operating costs of Interfaith Caregivers were provided by local individual and corporate donations (39%) and by two (one State and one Federal) grants (61%). There have never been set fees for the services we provide, and we hope to always be mindful that by bringing together volunteers with those with needs, we are benefiting both. Our volunteers always remark on how much they themselves benefit from Interfaith Caregivers.
After ten years, Interfaith had some major decisions to make to prepare for the future. For one thing, Jean Bierly retired as director in June 2007. For another, our board of directors faced a dilemma: State and Federal Grants were shrinking, and because we had remained under the umbrella of United Hospital District, our funding possibilities were limited. So, we separated from United Hospital and became an independent 501(c)3 organization. New bylaws were written and approved. Our board transitioned from an advisory board to that of a governing board. A new office was opened in Blue Earth, MN.
Helen Tesch became our new director until 2009, when a re-occurrence of cancer required her retirement. However, in those two years, Helen successfully led the organization through the early stages of planning, communication, development and structure, so we could grow and stabilize as an integral service to Faribault County.
As Interfaith continued to meet the needs of elders in Faribault county, we initiated the “Reaching Out to Support Elders” (ROSE) program, a risk management approach to help seniors live well at home. We also realized there was a need to expand certain services into Martin county, so we have established support groups for caregivers of seniors with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in both counties. And we provide educational classes and Powerful Tools for Caregivers (an evidence-based program of increasing and sustaining caregiver well-being).
In 2010, Daniel Woodring was hired as director of Interfaith Caregivers.
The Board of Directors is confident that with imagination, enthusiasm and dedication IFC will continue to move forward towards furthered sustainability, continued growth, and success in serving the elderly in our area.