Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at kcapps@newsminer.com, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.

The Fairbanks Senior Companion Program is growing. This year, it has signed up more volunteers in both Fairbanks and Delta Junction and also expanded to Tok.

“Between the three different stations, we have 27 volunteers,” said Laurie Lizotte, program coordinator. More volunteers are always needed as there is a long list of clients hoping to join.

Approved in 2017, this program benefits both senior volunteers and the senior citizens they serve. The goal is to help senior citizens stay in their own homes for as long as possible.

Lizotte was excited to announce that five men also signed up as volunteers — three in Fairbanks, one in Delta and one in Tok.

“We are making progress,” she said. “It’s crazy how fast three years go by. This upcoming year, I think our target is maybe 38 volunteers.”

Volunteers need to be age 55 or older and earn less than $29,680 a year. They must be willing to donate 15-40 hours every week. For that time, they receive a small stipend of about $2.65 an hour, along with a per diem for meals, mileage reimbursement and paid vacation, sick, holiday and bereavement time — all nonreportable income. A federal grant funds the program.

The volunteer jobs may include preparing meals, driving seniors to doctor appointments, the grocery store or the Senior Center. Other jobs include light housekeeping, doing dishes, dusting, mopping or vacuuming, helping with walking or washing. Volunteers may also read aloud, help with puzzles, play cards or just visit, sometimes giving family caregivers a respite.

“It’s a win-win situation,” Lizotte said. “The volunteers are absolutely loving the program. They go into people’s homes and help them with day-to-day activities so they can remain living at home.

“They develop wonderful friendships with clients they serve.”

As for the clients, they look forward to the visits and the companionship. One client told her volunteer: “I look forward to you coming every Monday. You have literally changed my life.”

Lizotte is in the process of training the program’s first husband-wife team in North Pole.

“It’s nice to get volunteers who actually live in North Pole,” she said. Some senior volunteers can be hesitant about driving any distance during winter months when roads are more hazardous.

“I just love every one of them,” Lizotte said. “They all are so unique. They all have their own strengths, their own interests. One thing they all share is compassion and love for humanity.”

For more information on the program call Lizotte at 452-2561.

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.