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The Daily Tar Heel

Grants Help Group Lend `A Helping Hand'

A Helping Hand has provided care to senior citizens and the disabled since May 1995, when the group was founded. With the grant funds, the organization will have more opportunities for volunteers to get involved.

The grants were provided by two groups. One group, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will assist A Helping Hand through a program called Faith In Action, providing $35,000.

A Helping Hand provides two basic types of services. One is to aid in food preparation or transportation. The second program is their respite care services, where volunteers are able to provide relief to full-time caregivers for a few hours each week.

The money from Faith In Action will be provided over a 30-month period to help expand A Helping Hand's respite care efforts.

"Faith In Action will help our neighbors maintain their independence by providing assistance with daily activities," said Cathy Ahrendsen, the founder and executive director of A Helping Hand.

The other group, the Home Health Foundation of Chapel Hill, will provide an additional $2,400 aimed at furthering all of the organization's services.

"A Helping Hand met exactly the goals we had set out," said Marlys Mitchell, the foundation chairwoman for the Home Health Foundation. "It was a perfect match for what we wanted to do. It was kind of easy."

Ahrendsen said the grant money would extend care and services to a total of 60 clients, leaving only 27 on the waiting list.

The organization currently utilizes 47 volunteers, 90 percent of whom Ahrendsen said are UNC students.

Ben Wood, a sophomore biology major, said he discovered A Helping Hand when the group delivered a presentation at the Alpha Epsilon Delta pre-medical honor fraternity.

"Volunteering helps me to build communication skills," he said.

"Being able to talk to someone you just met who is a few generations older than you is a valuable asset in pre-med. I've always found that the elderly have a lot to share about their lives. I've always benefited from their advice."

Sara Cleveland, a sophomore child development and family studies major said she also experiences the human aspect.

"You get to meet their family and become a part of their life."

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