Advocates lend a helping hand, caring heart

By Ralph Chapoco | Posted: Saturday, November 28, 2015 3:00 am

Everyone needs an advocate — people who will provide support in the challenging moments and celebrate during the joyful ones. This is especially true for the most vulnerable in society — those with special needs.

Fortunately, North Platte Citizen Advocacy has been providing advocates for people with developmental disabilities for 20 years. Volunteers assist with conflicts in their lives or simply spend time with them when they need a companion.

“The person who began this organization realized people with developmental disabilities are devalued in our culture, and we needed to find ways to bring them into the main flow of life,” coordinator Don Kurre said.

The process begins with a referral. Anyone, be it the individual, loved one or concerned citizen, can contact the office to discuss the issue. Kurre will interview the individual to determine if he or she is a good match for the program.

He creates a profile of the person and begins recruiting potential advocates to pair with the protégé, oftentimes using mutual interests as a guide to find the best match.

“For example, if someone is interested in writing, then I would also find someone who likes to write so they have something in common,” Kurre said.
After a match is found, Kurre becomes a bystander and allows the advocate and the protégé to establish the guidelines in the relationship.

The advocate represents the protégé when dealing with potential conflicts. Suppose that a furnace breaks and needs to be fixed. The advocate will accompany the person to the store and be there as store employees explain the process to repair the appliance. The advocate may ask questions for clarification and ensure the individual is understanding the process.

There is a range of possible scenarios. For some, an advocate could be present to play a game for a few hours, while others may have the medical power of attorney and make decisions for a person. It depends on the relationship.

Anyone can be an advocate, so long as someone displays a genuine interest in the other person’s well-being.

People interested in the service can call 532-0670.

Volunteers provide companionship and support for those with special needs or developmental disabilities

North Platte Telegraph.

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