July 6, 2015- VVCC neighbor celebrates 100th birthday 

by Amanda Skonhovd 

​George can recite types of model trains by heart, name airplanes by how many seats they have, and sing the Cornell alma mater without missing a beat. His stories are full of vivid detail, and he remembers his days as a veteran, husband and father as if they had happened yesterday. George’s memory is impressive, especially considering he celebrated his 100th birthday on June 18th.

His memory isn’t the only thing that’s impressive. The wall in his cozy Sedona Winds apartment is covered with awards and pictures of his greatest accomplishments, including an autographed photo of Amelia Earhart. His most recent addition to the wall? A letter from President Barack Obama, thanking him for his service to his country and congratulating him on his birthday milestone.

Known for his dry sense of humor and love for all things planes, train and automobiles, George is still adjusting to his age. "I wouldn't recommend getting this old," he jokes. "Everyone starts taking care of you, even if you don't ask."

George moved to Sedona in 2000 after his wife, Ruth, passed away. He came to live at Sedona Winds in 2012, and has since been living independently and enjoying daily life as the community's oldest resident. While he enjoys the ice cream socials, happy hours and his frequent naps, George admits that his true passion is in volunteer work. He is currently a member of many organizations around the Verde Valley, including the Beaver Creek Kiwanis Club and the Camp Verde Historical Society.

​Because George wanted to maintain his independence living alone and still do volunteer work, he contacted Verde Valley Caregivers for help with transportation. "Someone at one of my clubs saw that I was in need of transportation, so they put me in contact with Verde Valley Caregivers," he says. "Now I have three lady volunteers who take turns transporting me to all the places I volunteer. They are truly helpful."

Debbie Schwallie, one of George's "three lady volunteers," has been transporting George to and from his volunteer work for three years. As his 100th birthday approached, she asked him what he would like to do to celebrate. "He told me he wanted to celebrate what he loved to do most--volunteer," she says. "So I drove him to Cricket's restaurant to eat breakfast and celebrate with the Beaver Creek Kiwanis, and then to the Camp Verde Historical Society to celebrate there."

Debbie first became a volunteer with Verde Valley Caregivers specifically to help George. "Cindy Walker, another VVCC volunteer, had been transporting George by herself and needed help when she went out of town," she explains. "I decided I could drive George to his volunteer work when Cindy couldn't. It's been three years now, and I'm so glad I volunteered. George is an absolute delight."

George has made many memories, but one memory stands out above all-- what he says his greatest accomplishment in life. "I will always remember raising a family," he says. "My children and their descendents are wonderful. No one ever ran amuck. I tried to be a good father, and my wife a good mother. I think we did a pretty good job." He adds with a sly smile, "While I don't recommend getting this old, I definitely recommend raising a family and making memories of your own."  

June 15- Team Depot builds ramp for VVCC neighbor

by Amanda Skonhovd 

In Verde Valley’s local Home Depot store, among the lumber and sea of bright orange work vests, is a community service board dedicated to the completed service projects of Home Depot’s unsung heroes—Team Depot. This associate-led volunteer program combines the spirit of volunteerism with the passion for do-it-yourself projects that Home Depot is famous for. On their community service board, pictures and hand-written thank-you notes show a wide variety of projects completed for the citizens of the Verde Valley.

Store manager and Team Depot member Steve Machek says that Home Depot’s community really matters. “Home Depot is not only a retail environment, but a source of support to the community and the Verde Valley,” he says. “We are here to make an emotional connection for our customers and our community.”

When Doug, a Verde Valley Caregivers Coalition neighbor and veteran, desperately needed a ramp to allow him easier access to his home, it was Team Depot who stepped up to tackle the challenge. At 90 years old, Doug’s mobility was severely limited. “A ramp would allow him access to his porch with his electric scooter,” VVCC Operations and Mobility Manager Kim Meller says. “The ramp was too big to be built by VVCC volunteers, but a perfect challenge for the members of Team Depot.” 

The new ramp was professionally constructed by Team Depot’s craftsman Jerry Garrett, and personally delivered to Doug’s house in Sunset Village, Sedona, by the rest of the team, all at no cost to Doug or his family. After only two weeks, Doug is overjoyed. He says that with the guidance of his community supporters, he should be able to go up and down the ramp and freely access his home in no time at all.

 “Before the ramp, it was very difficult to take my daily walks,” Doug adds. “I would have to use the handrails to guide myself down the steps. That was very hard for me.”

With the growth of older adults in need of vital home repairs and appliance upgrades, VVCC looks forward to furthering its partnership with Home Depot and their team of hardworking associate-volunteers. “We hope to help with more VVCC construction projects in the future,” says Team Depot leader, Louis “Lou” Thompson.

Doug and his community of supporters are gracious to Team Depot’s efforts to restore his freedom of mobility. He has sent a thank-you card to Team Depot and hopes he will find it among the many other thank-you cards and well-wishes on their community service board.      
VVCC is in its 23rd year of service to nearly 2,300 older adults throughout the Verde Valley who need assistance to live independently in their homes. VVCC has over 300 volunteers who provide transportation to medical and other appointments, grocery shopping, hospital to home assistance, installation of medical alert units, as well as business assistance, handy person assistance, respite assistance, pet assistance, and more.  

VVCC is currently preparing for 900 additional older adults it is projecting will need assistance by the end of 2015. To learn more about volunteering please contact Kim Meller, operations manager, at (928) 204-1238 or go to: www.vvcaregivers.org.           

April 13, 2015-VVCC remembers dedicated volunteer 

by Amanda Skonhovd

Verde Valley Caregivers remembers longtime volunteer, Mary Eichman, who passed away March 31. VVCC Executive Director Kent Ellsworth says Mary had a fierce dedication to helping people. 

 "She had a strong and unshakeable will to help others," he says. "She was committed to helping people in a way we just don't see anymore. She will be missed by VVCC, and all the neighbors she served."

Mary began volunteering with VVCC in 2000. She assisted the older adults of the Verde Valley area with transportation needs, grocery shopping, business help, and friendly visits. Ellsworth estimates that Mary spent over 8,000 hours volunteering with VVCC over the years. "What's remarkable is how diligently she accepted responsibility," he adds. "If you look at the time she spent volunteering with us, and the amount of people she has helped--it's really quite remarkable."

Mary's passion for volunteering began at an early age. She was a dedicated volunteer for not only VVCC, but with many other charitable organizations. "My mother volunteered all her life," her daughter Julie says. "She was volunteering right up until the point where she got too ill to do so." In her lifetime, Mary taught adults to read through literacy programs, worked with Habitat for Humanity, and was the Chairman of the Cottonwood Bookmarks. She also received several awards for her service to people, including Yavapai County's Unsung Hero award in 2009 and the Northern Arizona Accomplished Elder Award in 2012.  

VVCC volunteer Mary Anne Scully remembers Mary quite fondly. She recalls how much of an impact she had on the neighbors she served. "She was an amazing volunteer," Mary Anne said. "She often volunteered to help three neighbors a day, every day of the week. People couldn't help but fall in love with her."          

Stories of Mary's volunteerism attest to her passionate spirit and her knack for making friends with each and every neighbor. One neighbor loved Mary's friendly phone calls so much, that even when the neighbor moved away, she insisted that Mary still give her a call every once in while. Another neighbor had such a wonderful time chatting with Mary that he "didn't want her to get more than three feet away from him" because her company was so warm and welcoming. 

A formal funeral will not be held, but a memorial service is being planned for the summer. The family plans to make the announcement of this service closer to that time. "It will be a celebration of my mother's life," Julie says.

Mary will be greatly missed by VVCC and the neighbors she has worked with over her many years of service. "She set a very high standard for volunteerism," Ellsworth says. "She rolled up her sleeves and got work done. She not only provided a service to older adults, but she inspired everyone around her."

Sylvia with volunteer, Sherry.  

February 11, 2015- Betty and the big band

by Amanda Skonhovd

The big band days of the 1930’s were a glamorous scene. From the bright lights of the stage to the shining brass of the trombones to the sea of excited audience members—this scene was surely a dazzling portrait of life during this time, but for most a sight long since forgotten. For Betty, however, scenes of the big band life are more vivid than ever. At 96 years old, Betty is quick to recall her days as the lead singer in her own small band. She was 19 then, a bright and vivacious vocalist playing with a trombone playing trio and dreaming of the days when she would make it big.

Growing up, she always admired the sounds of Jan Garber and his Orchestra. “I grew up listening to him,” she says, “but I never thought that I would get to meet him let alone sing with him and his band.”

Even when Jan Garber came to play in her town, Betty thought her dreams of performing with him were too farfetched. It wasn’t until her friends thrust Betty onto the stage during the Jan Garber Orchestra performance that she faced her dreams head-on. “I wasn’t even dressed to sing. I usually wore a gown but there I was on stage anyway,” she remembers. “He asked me what song I wanted to sing and I said ‘Over the Rainbow.’ They played. I sang. That was it.”

That night, Betty sang alongside the Jan Garber Orchestra for the first time. During intermission, Betty was offered a chance of a lifetime: perform with them again in San Francisco the very next night. It all seemed a little too much to Betty at the time. “I couldn’t go to California!” she says, “I had my own band, my own life. I couldn’t just leave.” But after a little encouragement from her friends, Betty packed her bags and went to California to live out her dreams.

Betty is able to recall this event and many others, in clear, vivid detail. Sai Chang, a volunteer at VVCC’s has attested to Betty’s good memory. “I am amazed how much she can remember and with so much detail,” he says. Sai has accompanied Betty on several outings through Verde Valley Caregivers’ volunteer program. When he learned of her days as a big band singer, Sai set up a surprise for Betty. After some careful searching through YouTube, Sai found audio clips of the Jan Garber Orchestra to play for her. Betty was absolutely delighted to hear them play once more.

At 96 years old, Betty Tentschert is as bright and vivacious as she was when she a nineteen year old big band singer. Through Verde Valley Caregivers, volunteers can meet Betty and other older adults with stories just like hers.

 “She’s an amazing lady,” Sai says. Betty proves that people, no matter what age, always have a story to tell.  

Neighbor Stories 

Creating a caring community for older adults in need.

Copyright     2014  Verde Valley Caregivers Coalition. All rights reserved. 

George recently celebrated his 100th birthday with his favorite organization thanks to VVCC volunteers. 

Team Depot members (from left to right): Steve Machek, Tim Owens, Jerry Garrett, Rosita Garcia, Louis "Lou" Thompson 

March 11, 2015-VVCC neighbor wants to fulfill bucket list

by Amanda Skonhovd

In her quaint home in Cottonwood, Sylvia is surrounded with memories. From the collection of family photos, home movies and paintings of Native American art, there is no doubt she has lived an eventful life. However, this adventurous life was recently put on hold when her daughter became ill. Taking care of her daughter had begun to take its toll on Sylvia, and she wasn’t sure what help was available.

Luckily, Sylvia was able to contact Verde Valley Caregivers and inquire about assistance with shopping and transportation. "I was delighted that the people on the other end of the phone were so nice," she says. "It was good to know there was someone out there who cared. Suddenly, doors were open to me that weren't open before."

With assistance from VVCC, Sylvia is able to have her shopping done for her. Since her illness inhibits her ability to drive, this service is an absolute necessity. "I have such unusual shopping requests," she says, "and I'm so thankful for the volunteers that take the time to write down my exact needs and fulfill them." VVCC also provides transportation for Sylvia back and forth from doctor's appointments. Regarding transportation services, Sylvia says, "They are my saving grace.  I appreciate people taking off work and their busy schedules to do this for me and my health."

Since Sylvia's daughter travels often, Sylvia is sometimes alone in her home. She has a Guardian Angel medical alert unit, another service offered by VVCC. The Guardian Angel Program provides a free and potentially life saving pendant that enables her to contact emergency services should she fall. Though she hasn't had to use her pendant, Sylvia enjoys knowing that help is right around the corner if she should need it.

Though Sylvia is content in her scenic Cottonwood home, she misses the joys of traveling. She has lived all over the country, from Chicago to Arizona. She has also visited Mt. McKinley, Salt Lake, the Grand Canyon and many other exciting destinations. Most of all she misses the ocean. "To see the ocean again is one of the most important things on my bucket list," she says.

 When asked what difference VVCC makes in her daily life, Sylvia says: "VVCC is my daily life. Without this organization, I would be living somewhere I simply wouldn't want to be. This is an admirable organization in every way, from the care and kindness they show to the real concern they have for every one of their neighbors."

 Sylvia's adventures have been put on hold, but only for a moment. She is determined to travel again, be with her family and friends and of course, see the ocean once more. She commends VVCC for their services and friendship. Sylvia proves that being an older adult doesn't mean you have to put your life on hold—it is simply another part of the adventure of life.  

Photo of Betty courtesy of Sai Chang. 

Remembering Neighbor Alice Horstman

By VVCC Volunteer Kay Bork   

I first met Alice (aka Elsje) Horstman on Nov. 11, 2013, when I was asked by Verde Valley Caregivers to take her shopping at Bashas'; eventually I took her to her doctor's appointments as well.   

 Initially, Alice was living independently in Sedona, but, on Dec. 31, 2014, a medical crisis occurred--and in the midst of a snowstorm. I had planned to visit her on that day, but I called to tell her that I was going to postpone for a day or two because I felt that her driveway was too dangerous for me to navigate in the snow. She reported that she was a bit concerned because there were red streaks going up her leg, so I immediately called VVCC, and Executive Director Kent Ellsworth braved the elements to go check on her. He immediately understood the danger of the situation and called the emergency squad, which transported her to the hospital in Cottonwood. She was in the hospital for about a week, then at a rehab center for another month, and finally moved to Cottonwood Village, where she lived until her death on Nov. 14, 2016 (almost three years to the day since we first met). During those three years I visited her ninety-two times, according to my records, and we formed a deep friendship. In fact, she told the caregivers at Cottonwood Village that I was not just a friend, but a family member. I guess that she unofficially adopted me, because her own children live far away and were not able to visit often.  

Alice was a brave lady, and she taught me many lessons about how to live. For one thing, she was born in Indonesia, then married a Dutch man, so most of her life was spent in a "foreign" environment, either in Holland or the U.S. Because she and her husband loved to travel, she often described herself as a "gypsy," and together they visited many interesting places throughout the world. They also enjoyed outdoor activities, including camping and hiking, and that is probably the reason that her son, Sjors, is a long-time volunteer at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. She never complained about her situation and was always grateful for any help that she received.  Upon her death, the staff at Cottonwood Village was devastated, and a nice memorial service was held in her honor.

Kay adds: Alice was an excellent knitter and had a real green thumb. She was the "champion" of her exercise class at Cottonwood Village. The prize was popcorn and potato chips, and she always sent me home with a bag full of her "prizes."

VVCC is honored to have served Alice’s husband Pieter from 2007 to Dec. 20, 2011 and Alice from 2013 to Nov. 14, 2016. We’re able to do our work because of dedicated volunteers like Kay. Please contact us if you would like to make a difference in the lives of the seniors we serve. (Your life will be changed too!)

Alice Horstman

VVCC neighbor Doug enjoys his new ramp, courtesy of Team Depot. 

Mary was a dedicated volunteer for over 15 years with VVCC. 

Contact Verde Valley Caregivers Coalition