IVC got its start in 1996 when members of various island religious congregations realized the growing need in our community for an organization that would enable our most vulnerable populations—the elderly, the disabled and others with special needs—to live comfortably and safely in their own homes with independence, dignity and a connection to the community.
This realization spurred the creation of Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers of Bainbridge Island (IVC). Through the tireless work of the initial founders and board members, such as Judith Louderback, Joyce Veterane, Joan Treacy, Dick Gregory and Sue and Bob Kuebler, initial funding was obtained from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, a Board of Directors was established and IVC was officially incorporated in the State of Washington on April 29, 1997, and subsequently received its tax status as a Sec 501©(3).
Although IVC’s original volunteers and funding—beyond the initial grant—primarily came from religious congregations on the island (and are still a significant source of IVC’s support), the mission had steadily grown to become more widely diverse, attracting grants, funding and volunteers from the broader secular community. As such, IVC’s Board of Directors decided to change the name from Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers to Island Volunteer Caregivers in 2014.
As stated on their website, “This decision was made in order that the name would more clearly reflect that our mission is inclusive, welcoming care receivers, volunteers and supporters of any and all backgrounds, and regardless of presence or absence of religious affiliations or ideologies.”
I had the pleasure of meeting with Joanne Maher, who recently accepted the position as IVC’s new Executive Director, to discuss what the future brings for IVC and the community that relies on them. Joanne, who is originally from Boston, Massachusetts, came to Bainbridge Island with her family in 2007. She has spent most of her career on Bainbridge working with various non-profit groups, such as Raising Resilience and Bainbridge Youth Services and served on several non-profit and school boards.
When the pandemic hit, Joanne decided to focus on her family’s needs and took a year off. However, when the vaccinations began rolling out, she jumped into action, using her technological knowledge to help source vaccines and get them to those that needed them. This in turn put her in contact with IVC and she immediately began volunteering with them to help identify the most vulnerable and get them vaccinated. “I’ve always loved this community, and wanted to help,” she said. In 2020, IVC asked her to fulfill the interim Executive Director position, and a few short months later asked her to accept the position full time.
As Joanne told me, IVC’s top 3 goals are to provide transportation, life enrichment programs and compassionate companions. Their enrichment programs include Flowers from the Heart, Kreaky Knees walking groups, BPA theatre events, Live From the Met Opera, museum tours, music appreciation, matinee movies and much more. The Compassionate Companions program provides one-on-one peer support by trained volunteers for those impacted by grief and loss. In addition, IVC has a Caregivers Support Group to assist those that are caring for a loved one. They also work closely with the Bainbridge Island Senior and Community Center to provide community outreach – to learn more about their programs, click here.
“We’re a ‘high-touch’ organization because we’re able to match caregivers to care receivers on a personal and need basis,” Joanne explained, “if they can stay in their homes, we’ll help them do it.”
What’s new for 2022? Joanne and the incredible staff and volunteers at IVC are currently working on a new initiative, the “65+ Community Assessment Survey”. The survey is designed to update the most recent strategic plan, which was last conducted in 2016. They hope to gather data on community needs and gaps in current programs available to the 65+ island population. “In 2015, 20% of the island’s population was over 65, today that number hovers above 26%—in other words, 1 in 4 adults on Bainbridge Island are over the age of 65—and 9% of seniors are living under the poverty line,” Joanne said. They hope to roll out the survey within the next two months.
IVC and its Board of Directors are also pleased to announce their annual fundraising auction, a dinner and dance celebrating their Silver Jubilee, will proceed in person this year for the first time since the pandemic began. They are currently taking sponsorship applications for the event, which will take place on June 16, 2022 at the Kiana Lodge in Poulsbo. If you’d like information on sponsorship opportunities, email Joanne Maher at Joanne@ivcbainbridge.org or call (206) 842-4441.
Of course, none of the services Island Volunteer Caregivers offer would be possible without their dedicated staff and volunteers. For Gary and Diana Davidson, relative newbies to Bainbridge Island, volunteering with IVC, has been a win-win situation. The active couple, both in their 70s, learned about IVC two years ago from a neighbor at their Downtown Winslow condominium complex, shortly after moving to Bainbridge from the Eastside.
“We were looking around for various volunteer opportunities and ways to get involved in the community,” recalls Diana. IVC fit the bill. The couple provides transportation for IVC clients who find it challenging to get around on their own. In addition, the Davidsons do everything from grocery shop for clients to taking them to banks, medical appointments, and other errands. “Their (IVC’s) schedule is very flexible with your time,” adds Gary. “You can take on as much or as little as you want.”
Typically, the Davidsons spend one day a week with IVC clients, but they particularly enjoy their time doing so, especially participating in IVC programs like Flowers From the Heart, where they drop off bouquets to shut-ins. “We get as much out of it as they do,” Diana says of the flower deliveries. “You really meet a wide variety of people and interact with them and realize what the community is made of…There’s a lot to some of these folks,” added Gary of the overall experience. To learn more about IVC’s staff and volunteer opportunities, click here.
IVC is also humbled to be one the recipients of the Bainbridge Community Foundation’s 2021 Outstanding Humanitarian Award. From December 23, 2020 to June 5, 2021, over 25,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were administered through the exceptional efforts of our local community non-profits, city agencies and volunteers. To read more about the award and community participants, click here.
*Images provided by Joanne Maher and Margaret Millmore
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