Daily Point of Light # 2361 Feb 20, 2003

The large number of retirees moving to Florida has resulted in there being many widows and widowers living alone. Some are legally blind, and others are wheel-chair bound. There are also some who are on oxygen or dealing with heart trouble. Often these seniors are isolated, and without some kind of intervention or help; their future will be in a nursing home away from their familiar surroundings.

The Senior Companion Program, a national program, operates on Federal Grants with matching funds and fundraising. This program meets the critical needs of the homebound community. By recruiting seniors who are 60 years of age or older to volunteer, the Senior Companion Program intervenes on behalf of these elderly shut-ins. The elderly deal with many physical and emotional problems.

Alfred Witherow is a valuable Senior Companion. His clients complement him as exceptional, dependable and trustworthy. Witherow is a stipend volunteer, which means he receives $2.65 and hour as well as a modest allowance for mileage. His efforts and time are in no way compensated by this amount. Witherow has been a part of the Senior Companion Program for a year and a half. He regularly performs above and beyond the call of duty and is an example of courage and determination to the clients as well as the other Senior Companions.

A major problem in the rural areas of Florida is insufficient transportation service. The clients may have a doctor or dentist that they have used for many years, but they now do not have a way to get to them. Many of the elder clients are in the low-income bracket, and the cost of a taxi is not in their budget. Because they are frail, they have difficulty getting in and off of the transit buses, so public transportation is difficult also. Many are not able to drive because of low vision or not owning a vehicle. Going to medical appointments, the grocery store or taking care of basic needs is sometimes an insurmountable obstacle.

Witherow knows how important his service as a Senior Companion is. His clients are mostly shut off from the world, so he takes the time to escort with a cheerful countenance. He also makes friendly house calls to his clients to make sure they are doing well. He especially went the extra mile for two elderly women whose husbands were dying in a nursing home. After managing his own schedule, Witherow would assist the ladies so they could spend their last precious moments with their spouses. He would drop them off in the morning and pick them up later in the day and see that they got home safely. Witherow faithfully served the pair until their husbands passed away.

Witherow spreads words of comfort and encouragement to his special passengers. Most people do not know that he receives dialysis treatments four times a day. He is able to do this on his own at home under medical supervision. Though he has his own physical struggles, and sometimes it is very hard to just get up and keep going; he does just that. Witherow believes his service to his clients gives him a purpose for getting up in the morning and facing the day.