Family Friends Respite Program
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Inter-Generational Center
Easter Seals’ intergenerational Family Friends Respite Program brings children, seniors and families together for mutual benefit. The Family Friends Respite network of senior volunteers provides a range of supports for families who have children with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses.
Through funding from Montgomery County and the Administration on Aging, Easter Seals trains volunteers to serve as in-home mentors, provide childcare during support group meetings or parent trainings, assist with community presentations and marketing, or support the program using their own distinctive skills and expertise. Volunteers enjoy the satisfaction that comes from giving their time and energy, and often form lasting relationships with families and other volunteers.
Easter Seals matches in-home mentors with a family living in their community. These invaluable volunteers spend a few hours per week playing, reading, or simply sharing time with a child in need of additional support. These regular visits also allow parents an opportunity to catch up on household chores or spend time with other family members, or simply take a much-needed rest.
Family Friends brought Ginny, a volunteer, together with Julie and her twins with autism, William and Elizabeth. Julie’s constant caretaking responsibilities left her feeling overwhelmed, overextended, and socially isolated. The program recruited, trained, and supported Ginny, who now spends a few hours each week playing, reading, and building skills with the children. The visits give Julie a much-needed opportunity to complete household tasks or just take time for herself.
The family developed a deep fondness for Ginny. They also appreciate her willingness to lend an ear or a hand wherever necessary in the home, at school, or in the doctor’s office. Ginny beams when she speaks of the children, their accomplishments, and her close relationship with them. “Elizabeth and William are like my own grandchildren now,” she says. “We are ‘Family Friends’ for life!”