HAYS — The Senior Companion Program sponsored by Fort Hays State University will celebrate 45 years of service in communities throughout western Kansas with a brunch buffet on Thursday, July 25, at the Rose Garden Banquet Hall in Hays. Senior Companions, dignitaries and guests from throughout the 14-county service area will attend the celebration.
The program, established in 1974 at Fort Hays Kansas State College, was one of 18 original projects, and the first in the nation to be sponsored by an institution of higher education. The program began with 60 volunteers serving frail elderly in a five-county service area. With a mission to provide needed community service to frail adults through life enriching volunteer opportunities for limited income adults, Fort Hays received a grant in the amount of $146,108 from ACTION, the federal volunteer agency.
An Aug. 6, 1974, news release stated, “To be a Senior Companion, the applicant must be 60 years old or older, have an income of less than $2,330 per year, work a maximum of 20 hours a week, five days weekly. ... The pay schedule is $1.60 stipend an hour, 50 cents allowance for transportation. ...”
College President Dr. John Gustad selected Dr. Calvin Harbin, then dean of instruction, to administer the program. Dr. Harbin remains an ardent supporter and advocate for the program. Howard Sloan was the first director and established SCP as a successful model for other areas in the country.
Since its inception in 1974, seniors, age 55 and better, dedicate their time and talents helping frail, disabled and homebound adults in Barton, Ellis, Ford, Gove, Graham, Hodgeman, Logan, Ness, Pawnee, Phillips, Rooks, Rush, Russell and Trego counties. Senior Companion volunteers respond to personal needs of frail adults by helping their clients with daily living activities so they may remain in their homes. They support families by providing respite care for those who give 24 hour support in caregiving roles. More than 300 adults throughout the service area receive the cost-free services of Senior Companion volunteers.
The Senior Companion Program is funded by the Corporation for National & Community Service, Washington, D.C., and sponsored by Fort Hays State University. Ellis, Gove, Pawnee, Rooks, Rush, Russell and Trego Counties and the Cities of Ellis, Victoria and WaKeeney also provide financial support. For information about the Senior Companion Program call 785-628-5809.