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Compeer Program helps those with mental illness

February 27, 2014
The Leader Herald

The Mental Health Association in Fulton and Montgomery counties offers a wide variety of programs and services throughout the counties. One of its many programs is the Compeer Program, servicing adults and youth in Montgomery County. For many people living with mental illness, there is often loneliness and isolation; however, having a "Compeer" can help alleviate those feelings. A Compeer is a companion, a mentor and a friend. The Compeers are trained, community volunteers who show interest in being mentors. Compeers often become positive role models, facilitate social and communication skills, and encourage independence for their Compeer friend. The Compeer Program offers the opportunity to help a child through the difficult childhood and teenage years, or an adult in need of emotional support and companionship.

The Compeer Program Coordinator Jessica Trimarchi is responsible for facilitating the match between the volunteer and the program participant based on common interests. The mentor and their Compeer friend then meet independently, doing activities that they both enjoy such as going out to eat, seeing movies or simply chatting. Volunteers are asked to spend at least four hours a month with their Compeer friend and to commit to one year of service. The other component of the program is regularly scheduled group activities. These also include the consumers who don't have a mentor yet, to provide the one-on-one experiences. Trimarchi coordinates events for both the adult and youth groups.

Last Veterans Day both groups met together for Christmas craft activities and tree decorating. Their decorated tree was then donated to the Amsterdam Century Club's annual Festival of Trees, which the Compeer Program has been involved with for years. On Dec. 5, the adult Compeer group attended the Festival of Trees luncheon to see their tree, along with others, on display. This month, Compeer participants and volunteers will be going to see "Sister Act" at Proctors in Schenectady. Then in March, the entire Compeer program will attend the Mental Health Association's 16th Annual MHA miniature golf day. The Compeer for Youth program has enjoyed activities such as apple and pumpkin picking, roller skating, bowling, and going out to lunch and to the movies. They are looking forward to laser tag and attending MHA's miniature golf day in March.

The Compeer Programs are always looking for new volunteers who are interested in making a difference in a person's life. To learn more about the Compeer and Compeer for Youth programs or to discuss various volunteer opportunities, contact Program Coordinator Jessica Trimarchi at 762-5332, Ext.108.

This column was submitted by the Mental Health Association in Fulton and Montgomery Counties.



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