AmeriCorps grant will let seniors help seniors

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff
Community Caregivers volunteer Cindy Wadach, left, gives a ride to a Caregivers' client. Another 78 volunteers are expected with an AmeriCorps grant.

GUILDERLAND — Community Caregivers has received a federal AmeriCorps Seniors Demonstration grant to recruit 78 additional volunteers, ages 55 and older, to serve in Albany and Rensselaer counties.

“This is huge,” said Community Caregivers’ Executive Director Lee Lounsbury on Tuesday. “We’ve never had a federal grant here, and there is only one other upstate in New York.”

The not-for-profit Community Caregivers, founded in Altamont in 1994, has volunteers who help people so they can live safely in their own homes as they age. Volunteers provide rides to medical appointments, grocery shopping, brief respite care, friendly home visits, and phone calls to clients in need, among other services.

While needs increased during the pandemic, Lounsbury said, the crisis also “brought people to us to help out who hadn’t helped before.”

She went on, “You know our community — they step up, and we did a lot of services like phone reassurance phone calls, ordering groceries online for people, that kind of thing. Everybody got really creative.”

In applying for the grant, Community Caregivers, which is based in Guilderland, stressed, “We know how to recruit volunteers; we’ve been doing it since 1994,” sasid Lounsbury. “With your support, AmeriCorps, we can do more of what we know how to do and have some stipends available to some of the volunteers.”

The federal grant is for $78,000 for each of two years, which is being matched with 10 percent to be raised through the community, Lounsbury said, with Caregivers’ events like the annual gala and golf tournament.

“We have the potential to reapply and hope this may become an ongoing program,” said Lounsbury.

The hope, with any of the current or new volunteers, is that they will stay on and help with the program, she said.

Income-eligible AmeriCorps volunteers can receive $3.15 per hour for their work, which Lounsbury said might be used, for example, to defray gasoline expenses if they are driving a client to shop or for a doctor’s appointment.

To be eligible, a family of one can earn up to $40,770, with the amount increasing by roughly $14,000 per additional person.

Anyone interested in applying to become a trained AmeriCorps Volunteer should contact Community Caregivers at to learn more and sign up for an orientation session.

The organization currently has about 150 active volunteers on its roster and, in any given month, probably about 80 of them provide a service, Lounsbury said. In 2021, over 700 different individuals were served, she said.

By being part of the AmeriCorps Seniors program, Lounsbury said, “We’ll be able to partner with additional agencies. So, for example, some of the people who apply through us to be AmeriCorps can choose to be stationed at the VA Hospital and help the veterans who arrive as outpatients ….

“We’re going to have an opportunity at the Muslim soup kitchen to help cook large meals, shop for them, cook the meals, and serve them at pop-up soup kitchens.”

Such partnerships wouldn’t otherwise happen, said Lounsbury. “We didn’t have the resources or the time… and now we do,” she said.

The funds are from the $1 billion investment in AmeriCorps through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to provide immediate relief from the pandemic, with a specific focus on support for underserved and disproportionately impacted communities.

Findings from a recent agency-sponsored study show that AmeriCorps Seniors, which engages nearly 200,000 older Americans at approximately 30,000 locations across the United States, volunteers serving with the Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion programs report feeling less depressed and isolated, along with stable or improved health scores.

Lounsbury is thrilled that Caregivers volunteers will now be part of a national movement. 

“This AmeriCorps, like the Peace Corps, like VISTA [Volunteers In Service To America], is a national movement to try to help improve our country,” she said. “I don’t want to get political but, if people are looking for a way to make a difference, this is the way to do it.”

More Guilderland News

The Altamont Enterprise is focused on hyper-local, high-quality journalism. We produce free election guides, curate readers' opinion pieces, and engage with important local issues. Subscriptions open full access to our work and make it possible.