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Students volunteer at center for senior services

Tanisha Agrawal / The SPOKE
Serving seniors: Conestoga alumna and CEO of Surrey Services, Jill Whitcomb (right), shows a member at Surrey the services it offers seniors to improve their quality of life. Former Wayne resident Jeanne LaRouche founded the nonprofit in 1981 after witnessing her elderly neighbors struggle to remain independent.

By Shrija Krishnan, Staff Reporter

Surrey Services for Seniors is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to helping older adults in Chester and Delaware counties age in place, or remain in their homes independently. The organization has centers located in Devon, Broomall and Media, offering volunteers opportunities to develop professional skills while giving back to the community.

Former Wayne resident Jeanne LaRouche founded Surrey Services in 1981 after observing her older neighbors, who were no longer able to drive, struggling to remain independent. What started as an initiative to provide transportation to local senior citizens soon transformed into an organization providing older adults services ranging from grocery shopping to digital literacy classes, both inside and outside the walls of Surrey’s three physical centers.

“What sets Surrey apart from other senior centers is the breadth of services that we provide at every stage of aging,” said Conestoga alumna and CEO of Surrey Services, Jill Whitcomb. “If you’re an older adult living here in Berwyn or Devon and want to age in place, you can depend on Surrey to be that support for you. We are able to do our work because of the strength of our volunteers.”

Since its inception, Surrey has operated on the “neighbor helping neighbor” model, mobilizing members of the community to help provide critically needed services in conjunction with traditional center-based programs. The organization currently has more than 400 volunteers who facilitate a diverse array of programs.

Whitcomb said that Surrey is looking for more student volunteers to get involved. Anabella Tracy, Surrey’s director of community outreach and engagement, notes that Surrey’s flexibility allows students to explore their volunteering interests while balancing other commitments.

“We really take the time to get to know students (and) understand their time constraints to help them find a schedule that works for them if they’re committed to wanting to volunteer in a meaningful way,” Tracy said. “I think having that tangible feeling that you’re doing something that enables an adult to continue to live with dignity (is) really special and what keeps bringing students back.”

Senior Isabel Sellig volunteered at Surrey’s Devon location this summer, preparing and serving meals at the center’s cafe. Sellig said that her cooking and people skills developed as a result of her experience.

“I thought (Surrey) was a really positive place for the elderly who can’t really do everything themselves,” Selling said. “Everyone was really welcoming, and the people that would come and get meals really enjoyed talking to me because I’m someone younger, (not) closer to their age.”

The organization is certified to award the President’s Volunteer Service Award, which requires high school recipients to perform 100 hours of community service. Students can also share any unlisted volunteering interests with the center.

“We would welcome any student volunteers from Conestoga,” Whitcomb said. “The great thing about our volunteer programs is if you start doing something and you’re not getting what you want out of that opportunity, there’s a million other opportunities that you can take advantage of here. It’s a wonderful way to give back to your community but also a way to build your resume and get some experience.”

Shrija Krishnan can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Shrija Krishnan
Shrija Krishnan, Business Manager
Shrija Krishnan is a junior and Staff Reporter for The Spoke. She covers local news and community events. Outside of the newsroom, she is a member of the Greening ’Stoga Taskforce.