With the downturn in our economic climate these days, a lot of us are talking about how everyone has to downsize, rethink their spending priorities, and do more with less. But what about those who are at an economic, physical or psychological disadvantage?
“There is a lot more need in the community for a lot of reasons,” says Karen Schrock, president of Adult Well Being Services. “We’ve closed most state hospitals for example. There’s only one state hospital for people with developmental disabilities—one for the entire state. This means people with developmental disabilities are out in the community. Many of them have family members who lovingly take care of them, but many don’t. What it means is that they have been put in situations where they’re very vulnerable.”
That’s where Adult Well Being Services steps in. Although the organization was founded as a senior help center and is often known in that capacity, it’s grown to offer a wide and comprehensive range of services. “(AWBS has come) all the way from prevention and education to a very involved aspect called guardianship,” Shrock says.
Guardians are alternative decision makers who serve people in need who might not have family around. “These people are often homeless and exploited, sometimes by family members, so we have to step in and help them take care of their housing, health care, financial needs, and all of that,” Schrock explains.
AWBS offers a Long Term Care program for people in nursing homes who believe they are abused or neglected, and a Care Transitions program to help people leaving the hospital to avoid readmission. But between all of its programs and initiatives designed to help seniors to young adults (and even the children being raised by AWBS clients) a lot of the work boils down to systems navigation.
“It’s helping people in the community who have no idea what’s available in the human services system to get the resources that they need,” Schrock says.
Having spent twenty years working for the State of Michigan before coming to AWBS, she has an intimate knowledge of the political policy in place to help low-income, disadvantaged people. But when she saw the position open up in AWBS, she jumped to apply.
“I thought it would be nice to actually come into the community and implement some of the good policy work we had been involved with. The most personally meaningful part of my job is every single day that I leave, I know we’ve helped someone,” she reflects. “It sounds kind of simple, but you can have a job, come in and do work and you’re not quite sure—did it make a difference in someone’s life? But every single day I know we’ve made a difference.”
“Doing more with less,” applies to charitable and non-profit organizations as much as (or more than) anyone these days, so a lot of AWBS’s work is dependent on volunteers. In their almost 60-year legacy, it’s had a long, strong history of volunteerism, having been founded by the Junior League in 1953.
If you’re interested in joining this long legacy of Detroiters helping Detroiters, there is no shortage of opportunities. Apply to volunteer at the AWBS website or by calling the office at 313.825.2410