Originally created 02/29/04

Volunteer helps seniors maintain independence



Irene Mazone is a volunteer with a difference.

She may start out solo, but she doesn't stay that way. Like a magnet, she has a knack for pulling in other workers and turning them into a team.

Since retiring from nursing in 1978, she has done mission work in Haiti, served as a volunteer and a board member for both Augusta chapters of the American Cancer Society and the American Red Cross. She is still on the Red Cross board.

She also co-founded Christian People Helping People, a faith-in-action ministry at her church, Greater Mount Canaan Missionary Baptist Church.

Begun with a $25,000-grant from the Princeton, N.J.,-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation seven years ago, the ministry helps elderly people remain independent.

Christian People initially transported patients, did in-home visits, shopping, light yard or housework and ran errands. It also performed similar services under contract with the Area Agency on Aging.

"We just had it full blast," Mrs. Mazone said.

From the beginning, the ministry was mostly about retirees helping other retirees, but lately requests have exceeded volunteers' ability to help.

Christian People recently narrowed its focus to food distribution, senior activities and a wellness program to provide health screenings and information.

The ministry will continue to care for those persons on its homes services list, but can not sign up any new clients. "We aren't giving up the ones that we had. We can't add any more," she said.

Mrs. Mazone, a registered nurse, started with the American Red Cross as an HIV/AIDS volunteer instructor in the mid-1990s. She trained people on ways to prevent the spreading of AIDS. Some were caregivers for AIDS patients; others became speakers who addressed community gatherings.

"From that (volunteer experience), I was appointed to serve on the (Red Cross) board where I still am," said Mrs. Mazone, who was recognized in 1992 for service to the American Cancer Society before she was tapped for a two-year stint on its board.

She traveled to Haiti in 1990 to work three and a half months with an orphanage. When she returned to the island in 1994, she took a group of nurses with her. They vaccinated some 800 children against measles in about seven days.

When someone spends all day shooting vaccine, "you can feel it when you finish," she said.

Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or virginia.norton@augustachronicle.com.