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MOVING STANLY FORWARD: Harris is dedicated to CARE Cafe program

In 2007, a group of Cedar Grove AME Zion Church members heard a presentation about a new service to be offered to seniors in Albemarle – an adult respite day care program to be housed adjacent to the Taylor House in West Albemarle. And Margie Harris was in the audience.

“The lady who was speaking told us about the program, and said that volunteers were needed. She asked if any of us would be willing to do so,” she said.

And Harris, with 40 years of experience in various health care settings as a licensed practical nurse, answered the call. Twelve years later, she remains an indispensable part of a strong program at the CARE (Community Adult Respite Experience) Café on Coble Avenue in West Albemarle, where she volunteers weekly helping provide assistance and guidance to program clients.

“Volunteering here is uplifting,” said Harris. “I still like to help and serve others, and this provides me an opportunity to that.”

On her regular volunteer day (Tuesdays), Harris arrives at the Café a little before 9 a.m. and gets the facility set up for the seniors who will be arriving around 9:15 a.m.

“When I get here, I go ahead and open the door, get the lights on, set out the participants’ name tags and get the coffee going,” she said.

But in addition to morning and afternoon activities and a daily lunch, the café offers something that some seniors do not have an opportunity to experience regularly: socialization and interaction.

“When I was working in health care, I would volunteer on my off days as a ‘pink lady,’ ” said Harris, “and that gave me a chance to visit folks in other health care facilities on my own time. I enjoyed getting to know them and keeping them some company, and lots of those people just needed someone they could talk to.”

And talk is plentiful at the CARE Café on this day as the afternoon crowd prepares to play bingo. When asked their impressions of Harris, participant Addie Pickett immediately said, “She’s a sweet lady, and is always here.”

“She helps with everything,” added Toby Efird, another regular participant.

“Margie has been with us the longest of any volunteer we have,” said program director Sandra Nance. “At first, she volunteered as a member of our board, and soon after that she came on as a volunteer. I can trust her to do a good job handling anything we have going on…she even fills in for me when I’m out of work or on vacation.”

Margie Harris, right, assists client Beula Cagle in bingo preparation.

The value of volunteers like Harris is often conveyed in anecdotal terms, but Nance also provided figures showing Harris is not only a popular and admired worker, but one whose dedication and commitment can be shown statistically as well.

“Margie has volunteered here roughly 425 hours over the past eight years,” said Nance, “and that only takes into account her time spent in the program assisting participants. It doesn’t include the hours that she has attended board meetings, planning activities or helping out at fundraisers.”

And as the afternoon bingo game gets underway, not only has Harris set up the tables and provided each participant with a card and tokens…she steps quickly into the role of caller as well.

“I – 20,” announces Harris as she draws out a number.

“You’re older than that,” wisecracks one of the participants.

And although the smart-aleck quip is correct, Margie’s energy and enthusiasm exceeds that of many, and serves as an inspiration and example to the program’s clients and staff.

“I don’t know what we would do without her,” said Nance. “She is incredibly valuable to the program, she loves the participants, and God’s love shines through her.”

Highlighting People Who Care

The Stanly News & Press aims to highlight community individuals who are helping better the county by “Moving Stanly Forward.” Have a suggestion for a person to feature who is doing something good in Stanly? Email bj.drye@stanlynewspress.com.