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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 21, 2010

Damon takes the reins at Community Caregivers

By Jo E. Prout

GUILDERLAND — Community Caregivers has a new program director, who is doubling up as acting executive director. Christine C. Damon joined the local not-for-profit organization this month, and former executive director Diane Cameron Pascone stepped down two weeks later.

“I came in as program director on Oct. 4, and I’m acting executive director as of a day and a half [ago],” Damon said this week.

The Community Caregivers’ board is now searching for a new executive director.

Cameron Pascone left the Caregivers on Oct. 15 to work for a different not-for-profit organization. In her five years with the Caregivers, Cameron Pascone started new programs and support groups for those dealing with dementia; worked with the county and state offices for the aging; and increased grant and fund-raising income, according to a press release from the Community Caregivers. A writer, she also taught courses to help caregivers express themselves.

“I’m blown away by the people at Community Caregivers,” said Cameron Pascone five years ago in an Enterprise interview. “Something seemingly as old-fashioned as neighbors helping neighbors works well and is needed...It’s very inspiring,” she said.

Community Caregivers, which originated in Altamont, harnesses the energy and skills of volunteers to provide free services for Albany County residents in need. For example, a volunteer may drive an elderly person to a medical appointment or help an ailing young mother with child care. The organization matches volunteers with clients’ needs like short-term meal preparation, minor repairs, housework, or home visits.

Founded in 1994, the organization has grown beyond the village of Altamont and a handful of volunteers. When Cameron Pascone began her work with Caregivers in 2005, her salary was $60,000.

“Since taking over the reins, she and her staff have done a tremendous job supporting the needs of our clients in the numerous communities that we serve, and further strengthening Caregivers’ reputation in the Capital Region,” said its board President Christopher Cassidy this week. “We thank her for her service and wish her the very best in her future career.”

New acting director

Christine Damon is a certified “aging in place” specialist. She previously worked with Catholic Charities, where she was responsible for elder care, respite, and caregiver support. She has her own caregiving experience to draw from in her new dual position with Community Caregivers.

“I know all about trying to work your way through the maze that’s the system,” Damon said. She has been a caregiver three separate times — for her father, her mother, and her uncle, she said.

Her experience is also professional. Damon, a former teacher and college administrator, ran a day program in the Midwest for people with dementia.

“I had a small agency in place, and a memory-support business,” she said. Using non-medical interventions, she tried to help people modify their homes, leaving the spaces more user-friendly as residents continued to age at home, she said.

The Niskayuna native has been in the Capital District for three years, she said. She has an English background and a master’s degree in adult continuing education. She is working on a master’s degree in gerontology from Iowa State University.

Using her eldercare and respite background, she now directs people to local agencies where they can find the care that they need.

“There is a lot of support out there,” she said.

“Diane just did a wonderful job of pulling things together for the past five years, and enhancing the program,” Damon said. “My goal is to follow in her footsteps and further enhance the program.”

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