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Keep Others Financially Independent, Volunteer with AARP Money Management

Inspired by other’s struggles staying financially afloat and the desire to make a difference, many new volunteers have approached the AARP Foundation’s Money Management Program (MMP) in Oregon to help start or support programs in their community.

By 2011, MMP expects to have 11 programs available in Oregon, including recently launching programs with local partners in Grants Pass and Roseburg. It is managed and overseen by Easter Seals Oregon, in conjunction with the local community service organizations.

Lower-income older adults and people with disabilities can get assistance with basic household finance through MMP. Volunteers work with clients, either to assist them with paying bills and balancing their checkbook or as the designated representative payee to manage their federal benefits, like Social Security.

“The Money Management Program plays a critical role in meeting community needs and changing demographics, and to helping more older adults remain independent in their own homes and keeping the doors shut to fraud and abuse,” said Jerry Cohen, state director of AARP Oregon.

There are 330 volunteers serving clients in Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Multnomah, and Wasco Counties. And work is currently underway to establish new programs in Columbia, Linn/Benton, and Marion Counties.

“Volunteers get a great deal of satisfaction from working with people in the community,” said Carol Cookson, state coordinator for Oregon’s Money Management Program. “Our volunteers develop relationships and even friendships with their clients, many have been with the program for more than 15 years and have multiple clients.”

Volunteers, Clients Reap Equal Rewards

A retired accountant, Lavonne Gaylor of West Linn began volunteering with the Money Management Program in Clackamas in 2004 after reading an AARP article about the program. As the primary caregiver after her mother had a stroke, Gaylor realized her mom’s money and property management issues and therefore became aware that many seniors need help with their finances.

AARP began offering the Money Management program model to non-profits in 1981. Oregon’s first program opened in Clackamas County in 1987, which is currently the largest program in the country.

Gaylor’s first client was a local West Linn senior in tough times with substantial overdraft fees causing the bank to threaten to close the account. With her help, the client was able to save the account and eventually get counseling to secure a reverse mortgage that was more within her means. This enabled her to remain independent and remain in her home.

Six years later, Gaylor now has seven clients, most of which she serves as the representative payee and manages all finances. Her clients range in age from their 20s to 80s, six of whom live in apartments and one in a long-term care facility. She has three clients in one family who live together, including the 84-year-old mother and two older children living with disabilities.

“We come in just to write checks and often times these people need more help than that. With two of my clients I have helped them find housing, move and establish a household,” Gaylor said.

“It’s amazing to see the changes over time in my clients. Getting a little help keeping their finances in order, they are much more independent now and comfortable building rapport and trust.”

A 2008 AARP survey found that 95 percent of clients were very satisfied with the assistance they received through the Money Management Program.

Growing Need for Financial Assistance

According to Cookson, there are about 84,000 people who need help managing their money in Oregon. As people age their need for help with financial tasks grows. Easter Seals Oregon’s long-term goal is to have a program in every county in Oregon.

As of 2009, over 4,000 volunteers across the nation provided services to more than 6,000 clients through 141 government and nonprofit agencies. Last year, the Oregon Money Management Program protected more than $6 million in client funds by providing monthly one-on-one service to 550 clients who have an average monthly income of $968.

Prior to becoming the State Coordinator for the Money Management program through Easter Seals Oregon, Cookson was a banker for 19 years.

“At the end of my banking career, I was looking for a rewarding and challenging career when I was offered a position as the Program Coordinator for the Money Management Program in Clackamas County. I fell in love with the program because of the volunteers – they are great people who are incredibly invested in their community,” Cookson said.

“Our volunteers provide an invaluable service to their clients, their community and state. Helping keep clients, independent, protected and living with less stress, reduces the need for more costly supports. ”

Find a program in your area, or learn more about volunteering or getting assistance for someone in need contact Easter Seals Oregon at 800-556-6020 or email mmp@or.easterseals.com.

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