Story by Parker Johnson. Photos courtesy of The Senior Source.
While COVID-19 continues to negatively impact assisted living and nursing facilities all over the country, local Dallas nonprofit The Senior Source is stepping in to provide a helping hand. For over sixty years, The Senior Source has acted as a beacon of light for senior citizens living in assisted living and nursing facilities. Alongside a strong community of volunteers, The Senior Source provides senior citizens with the guidance, support, and education needed to live a happy and robust life. As assisted living and nursing facilities continue to be on lockdown, effectively cutting off residents from the outside world, The Senior Source is tirelessly working to organize donation drives, to ensure the residents of these facilities know that they are loved and have not been forgotten.
The Senior Source developed the Friendly Visitor program to show residents of assisted living and nursing facilities that the outside community has not forgotten about them. Coordinated by Marsha Evans, The Friendly Visitor Program recruits volunteers to spend time with these seniors. The volunteers typically do everything from playing cards with residents to making the community a better place through beautification projects. When the lockdowns started to take effect, the Friendly Visitor Program did not stop their intentional work. Under Marsha’s leadership, The Senior Source was able to bring the Friendly Visitor Program to the digital world, allowing residents to experience the joy of human connection without exposing themselves to the risks of COVID-19.
Marsha Evans is not new to working for the betterment of the Dallas community. Before she started her work with nonprofits, Marsha spent 14 years working for the city of Dallas. After a successful career working for the city of Dallas, Marsha decided to spend the next ten years working for the business nonprofit, Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce.
It was during her time working for the city of Dallas that Marsha Evans discovered her passion. “When I worked for the city of Dallas, we would always volunteer as a team,” Marsha says. “One year we did a Christmas event at a nursing home in Fair Park. The nursing home actually connected each of us with a resident. When that happened, I fell in love with the elderly community. The resident I was connected with—I stayed with that person for years.”
After leaving the Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce, Marsha Evans was ready to get more involved with the Dallas nonprofit sector. Marsha says, “When I left Dallas Regional Chamber of Commerce, I did some research on what I wanted to do next. As I was looking, I knew I wanted to do something more altruistic. I really enjoy giving back, and I enjoy volunteering. I wanted to do something where I knew the money wasn’t going to be there, but I knew my heart was going to be there. Through my research and the support of friends, I found out about The Senior Source. I thought to myself that I would really like this organization. In 2011 I went in for an interview, and the rest is history.”
For just under ten years, Marsha Evans has grown The Friendly Visitor Program at the Senior Source into an effective program that brings joy to assisting living and nursing facility residents all over the Dallas community. “In all, there are about 16,000 older and disabled adults that live in a Dallas County assisted living or nursing facility,” Marsha says. “We have about 312 or so facilities in our service area that we provide services to and advocate for through our Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. Eighty-one of those facilities are nursing homes. My part is to bring in the fun and socialization into these facilities.”
While COVID-19 has caused many problems for assisted living and nursing facilities, it has not slowed down Marsha’s determination to provide hope and joy to the residents. Over the past several months, she has organized over 300 groups of volunteers who connected with seniors through virtual devices or other means. “There has been a massive uptick in those wanting to volunteer and help. In the summertime, I had a lot of kids and students who reached out that wanted to create greeting cards and other notes of encouragement for nursing home residents. It was so overwhelming. You know a lot of residents don’t even get mail so for them to know people haven’t forgotten about them was amazing to see,” Marsha says.
The ability to connect with senior residents remotely has allowed volunteers to come from all over the world. Marsha explains, “Now this has opened up a whole new door of volunteers. We have had volunteer requests from people in Arizona, California, and Washington state. There was a young lady at the International School Bangkok who reached out to me. She wanted to send letters to assisted living and nursing facilities. She even wanted to get her roommates involved as well.”
If you are interested in giving back to the senior citizen community, The Senior Source provides many opportunities. On their website, they list all the volunteering programs they offer. If you do not have time to volunteer, a donation allows The Senior Source to provide much-needed services and educational programs.