Giving Spirit

Thank you for providing pets for lonely seniors. Your donation provides food and veterinary care for animals living at Volunteers of America senior living and care communities. Pets offer therapeutic support to older adults with memory loss, like those living in Horizon Care Center, where a black cat named Cooper provides companionship and encourages participation in group activities.

Cooper’s Purpose

Cooper is the affectionate black cat who lives full time with older adults requiring memory support at Horizons Care Center in Colorado. Sara Sterling, Executive Director, rescued Cooper at a local shelter. “Pets are a big part of people’s lives,” says Sterling. “I didn’t want the older adults we care for to lose that aspect of life. Animals give people a sense of purpose.” Cooper is a perfect fit for gentle companionship and so much more.

Cooper provides companionship, but the real surprise was his ability to increase social interactions. People who have Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia often struggle to communicate. Cooper’s need to be cared for gives them purpose. It’s something they can control.

Cooper also plays a role in therapeutic memory-support activities at Horizons Care Center. There is a scheduled brushing activity that brings people together.  This simple activity has increased participation and reduced isolation among individuals taking part. As everyone eagerly takes turns with the brush, agreeing on whose turn it is gets them talking to each other. The cat also soothes some who are gripped by feelings of anger or sadness common to people with memory-loss issues. An agitated person can calm down by holding Cooper and listening to him purr.

People living in care communities can experience a sense of isolation; they are the focus of attentive care, yet often have no constructive way of giving back. Caring for a pet like Cooper offers individuals with memory loss opportunities to nurture a type of give-and-take relationship they otherwise would miss. Says Horizons certified nursing assistant Felicia Cole, “Folks show Cooper love, and he shows it right back.”

Rise and Dine

Sylvia Zangl is delighted she can sleep in and still get a hot, delicious breakfast. A resident of Volunteers of America Sleepy Eye Care Center in Minnesota, Zangl is experiencing open dining at work. Open dining is a restructured approach to serving daily meals outside of restricted meal times. For instance, instead of everyone eating breakfast at 7am, now they are provided meal times of their choosing. “Because I can have a good breakfast whenever I get up, I feel better throughout the day,” Zangl says.

Open dining is part of a larger program to improve sleeping habits and allow people to sleep on their own schedules.  No longer are they forced to wake early in order to get to the dining room for a specific meal time. Sara Sterling, Executive Director, is a fan of the culture shift. “Open dining is completely person-focused,” says Sterling. “People living here make all the choices. They are valued, honored and empowered.”

Volunteers of America senior living and care communities are at the cutting edge of a national shift toward giving older adults freedom of choice, primarily in how and when they sleep, wake and eat. The goal is to replicate the freedoms of home.

These days, small groups of early-risers linger in Sleepy Eye’s dining room after breakfast to sip coffee and chat. Jen Fulmer, Dietary Manager, is pleased that the new approach is promoting interaction. “Open dining increases a person’s independence and their feeling of importance,” she notes. “People feel they are recognized as individuals.”

Your donation funds innovative and beneficial approaches like open dining, that enhance independence, dignity and quality of life for older adults in your community. 

A Passion for Compassion

 “There’s something special about the people Volunteers of America attracts – positivity attracts positivity,” says Maggie Sirles-Hamley, a certified nursing assistant at The Homestead at Montrose in Colorado.

For Sirles-Hamley, as for other Volunteers of America caregivers, the work is not a job – but a calling.  “I have a passion for working with older adults,” says Sirles-Hamley.

“Each older person has a story. It’s important to hear their stories. If you allow it, their story can become part of your story. That’s a gift I return with the same love and appreciation.”  Maggie Sirles-Hamley

If you hear laughter, there’s a good chance Maggie Sirles-Hamley is there. Lela Ala, an older adult living at The Homestead, says of Sirles-Hamley, “What I enjoy about Maggie is that we do a lot of laughing. She’s also a very caring and compassionate person.” Carrie Wilson, another member of The Homestead community, appreciates her good, long chats with Sirles-Hamley, where the sharing is two-way.  “She wants to know all about me – we talk about each other’s childhood. We just have a good time together.”

The Homestead at Montrose’s executive director, Denise Swanson, says of Sirles-Hamley, “Maggie has an exceptionally kind heart and caring demeanor. She goes over and above for the older adults we care for, giving them that extra time – talking to them about their family and whatever is on their mind on a particular day. She makes a difference in their lives.”

Make a Senior


and your heart will smile too.

Your caring gift of stock improves the lives of older adults in Volunteers of America senior living and care communities by providing programs that enhance quality of life, dignity and independence.

What’s more, donating stock can offer you and your family significant tax benefits. To learn more, contact David Woods by email at Or call 703-341-5000.  Please consider making a high-impact gift of stock.

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