BY KATIE MATTESON
If you’re a caregiver for someone who needs you around the clock, it’s difficult, even impossible to get a break.
Those in Racine County caring for individuals with age-related challenges were able to access a caregiver respite program through Lincoln Lutheran of Racine called Harmony Club – up until Lincoln Lutheran went into receivership in February 2015 and the program was shut down.
Thanks to Dawn Vlach, who directed the program for 10 years, along with help from Suzanne Pettit (who founded the program with the late Pat Raymond in the mid-1990s), the program was reconstituted in April 2015 as Our Harmony Club Inc. and has been going strong ever since.
“We call it a God program,” Vlach said. “Things just seem to fall into place when we need them.”
“Sue and I were able to get into class through the Small Business Development Center at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside right away to learn how to write a business plan and establish a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization to run the program,” Vlach said. “Sue continues to serve on our Board of Directors, along with Pat’s son, Edwin, Martine Albritton, Anna Callan and Sydney Prochazka.”
Vlach credits the volunteers, most of whom were part of the original program, for making the club a success. They provide the companionship, entertainment and social stimulation for the guests who attend the program, held 15 days per month at seven locations:
- St. Joseph’s in Lyons
- North Pointe Harmony in Racine
- Holy Communion in Racine
- OC Community United Methodist in Oak Creek
- Harbor Rock Tabernacle in Racine
- St. Sebastian in Sturtevant
- St. Richard in Racine
Vlach, the only full time employee, receives assistance from part-time staffers Christine Scott, assistant director; Jeanie Jurkiewicz, general manager and Kristi Pavlovich, marketing.
The guests are primarily elderly individuals who have age-related challenges ranging from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases to simple social isolation.
Prior to coming to club, each guest receives an assessment to make sure the program will meet their needs. Once the guests are registered, the caregivers schedule their care receivers for specific days and prepay for the services.
Our Harmony Club provides caregivers with six hours of respite care for a cost of $30 for the entire day, with an additional donation of $3.50 for lunch.
The day starts at 9:30 a.m., with guests arriving and being paired with a volunteer for the day. The couples get acquainted over a cup of coffee or juice and a snack then work together on craft activities, coloring or small puzzles.
At 11 a.m. it’s time for the Friendship Circle, where a volunteer leads the group in songs, exercises and games like bean bags or bocce ball until it’s time for lunch at noon.
The group enjoys the homemade lunch prepared by volunteers and continue to socialize.
After lunch, they enjoy an hour of entertainment provided by community members or music therapy, thanks to a grant from Bader Philanthropies Inc.
The day ends with a few rounds of bingo and other games before the caregivers begin to arrive to pick up the guests.
While Our Harmony Club does receive some grant support, its operations are primarily supported by the fees collected, fundraisers and individual donations from the community.
Openings are currently available for guests at all the sites. For more information, contact Dawn Vlach at (262) 880-5301 or DawnVlach@ourharmonyclub.org.
Donations may be sent to Our Harmony Club, Inc., P.O. Box 457, Sturtevant, WI 53177.