SVCOA HelpLine Profile: “It’s an amazing feeling to be appreciated by those who call”

By Ellen Green, SVCOA Communications & Volunteer Coordinator  

What is the helpline? The HelpLine is a way to connect with older Vermonters and guide them to the right services.  Sometimes just calling to ask for help is a big step for someone who has always been independent.  To listen to that person’s concerns with understanding and respect lets them know they have made the right choice to call us.  Often there is an element of interpretation or reading between the lines for callers who don’t know exactly what to ask or how to get help. Good interviewing practices and knowledge of available services are probably the most important skills for this position.  The call can be the first step to any of SVCOA’s services.  Sometimes it feels like a mini-Case Management call, without the stress, or a mini-relationship call; people call repeatedly and request one of us because of previous help we’ve given.  Sometimes people tell us just what a difference we have made for them: They say thank you and that they feel relieved and supported.  They are appreciative of the phone calls returned in a timely fashion.  It’s an amazing feeling to be appreciated by those who call.

The pandemic has caused a bit of a shift in the calls that we receive.  More people are paying more attention to family members and noticing when things are slipping or when there is a concern and are calling for information.  We are speaking to more adult children with questions than before.  People that are turning 65 are also paying more attention to Medicare and the changes that occur in their insurance at retirement.  People that were “too busy” before are now taking the time.  

Carol Allard: “I started at SVCOA in May of 2000 as a Case Manager and then moved to my present position as Information and Assistance Specialist just before we moved to the new building.  I was hired here shortly before graduating from the College of St. Joseph with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and was working on a Master’s Degree in Counseling.  While finishing my bachelor degree at CSJ, I worked for the Dean of Students, having gone there from Central VT Public Service Corp (now GMP).  I also have 3 equine degrees with a Riding Master Certification.  I’ve taught riding, judged competitions in the area for many years and raised, trained, and competed my own horses in Dressage and Combined Training.  One benefit of getting older is that you have a wide range of experiences and learning to bring to the present.”

I have found that working at home has been more productive with less distraction.  I never used to take breaks and often didn’t take lunch.  I now make a point of getting up from my desk for 15 minutes in the morning and afternoon and my ½ hour lunch break.

It is amazing what you can accomplish in that time and how much better you feel.  It has been an eye-opener for me and a healthy one.  I love spending more time with my good friend Madeline with the daily support she provides on our walks and “help” with all other things.  Madeline brings joy to every day.

Lisa Duffy: I had my daughter Sophia at age 43 (an accomplishment in itself…) and stopped my carpentry career of 20 years to be at home with her. My husband and I lived in Massachusetts on a dairy farm where he worked. I had three donkeys! I had grown up in MA, living and working around and in Boston, Cape Cod and Nantucket. In 2003 we moved to Rutland after my father passed away and we bought his house. When I tried to re-enter the work-force I realized I was not up to speed, as I didn’t even know how to use a computer. I felt like Rip Van Winkle! In 2009, at age 53, I mustered my courage, bought my first laptop and enrolled at CCV/Johnson State. It took me 8 years, two classes at a time, to earn my Associate and then my Bachelor degrees (summa cum laude) in Human Services. My goal was to graduate college before my daughter graduated High School, and I did it by one year.

During that time I also worked nights at Ace Hardware and took care of my mother and my daughter. When the opportunity to apply to the COA was presented by Barbara Hansen (whom I had interviewed for a class requirement) in 2011, I was thrilled for the chance. I love working on the HL, it allows me to put to use all of the knowledge and skills I have learned in life and in college, and to help senior citizens every day in small ways with the respect and dignity they deserve. 

My two dogs and my love of home, property and quiet have kept me sane during the pandemic.  Working from home has been more productive with fewer distractions.  The chatter in the office and hallway is distracting for me; at home there is no “static”, and I can concentrate better.  I am very happy in the quiet of my home doing a job I love with my two dogs that I love.  (And the occasional moose and bear in the yard!)  

Mary Muratorri: I am a first-generation Vermonter and I have lived here my whole life.  I have been married for 26 years and have 2 kids (18 and 21).  I also have 2 dogs and a cat who love my being home during the pandemic and will be so sad to see Mom go back to the office. 

I started working at VNA as a Licensed Nursing Assistant and the scheduler for CFC and other services.  While I loved the job, I felt it was time for a change.  Former SVCOA employee, Heather Baker, had also worked at VNA and was hired as a Case Manager at SVCOA.  She kept me apprised of job openings and let the Rutland Aging Services Director know of my interest.  When a Helpline opening occurred, SVCOA called me – that was 5 years ago.  I truly love my job. This is a perfect fit for me. I enjoy working with older Vermonters and helping them meet their needs. 

I have transitioned well to working at home. Although I miss the interaction with coworkers, I am finding I am just as efficient being home as I would be in the office.