Volunteers Needed in Paso Robles & North County

Care, compassion, empathy, respect — all of this and more is what volunteers with Senior Peer Counseling, a program of Wilshire Health & Community Services, provide local older adults during difficult times in their lives. Under the guidance of three clinical supervisors and a program manager, professionally-trained volunteer counselors help 150-200 seniors annually throughout the county struggling with grief, loss, isolation, depression, and other life challenges.

“Our goal is to remove barriers to receiving mental health services so more clients have access to the support they need to live and age well in their own homes,” said Jennifer Kaplan, administrative services coordinator.

One client, referring to her counselor, said, “She was my link to living.” Another said, “This service was a lifeline for me. Thank you for this wonderful service. In my situation, with no family and few friends locally, it was much needed.”

Volunteers Needed

Services are offered free of charge, and there are no income or insurance requirements for the clients. On average, volunteers provide around 1,000 Senior Peer Counseling hours to clients across the county. Most clients live alone, many are widowed and may be visually and/or hearing impaired.

The largest demographic being served is 80-84 years of age; 30 percent of those live in North County. Currently, there are dozens of potential clients on the wait list. The greatest need is in North County, an area that receives requests and referrals daily.

“We only have two active senior peer counseling volunteers in North County,” said Kaplan. “We do not like people to be on a wait list, so we are putting a lot of effort into recruiting new counselors in this area – they are definitely needed.”

Although most referrals for Senior Peer Counseling services come from community agency social workers, anybody may refer themselves or a loved one. Counseling services are provided for as long as needed for the client, on average six months.

Oftentimes, volunteers say they benefit from their involvement just as much as the clients. “It is the best ‘job’ I ever had,” one said. Another, “Being a Senior Peer Counselor has been extremely rewarding. It has opened my eyes to some of the challenges our seniors face and taught me invaluable skills, such as compassionate listening and being present.”

More about Wilshire Health and Community Services

As a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit organization, providing compassionate care is the hallmark of Wilshire Home Health, Wilshire Hospice, and Wilshire Community Services. Wilshire Community Services support individuals and families throughout San Luis Obispo County who are facing challenging circumstances and difficult life transitions.

Next month, we visit the Good Neighbor and Caring Callers programs offered through Wilshire Community Services. Learn how to sign up to volunteer or request services as a client in Part Two of this two-part series.