Program evolves, volunteer remains loyal

by Pam Christensen

Thirty-five years ago, Miriam Hilton was one of the people who set the stage for what would become today’s Marquette Adult Day Services. She would serve as a volunteer, board member and volunteer center director. Today, she still supports the organization and leads the group in tai chi twice a month.

Miriam Hilton leads a Marquette Adult Day Services group in practicing tai chi.

Miriam Hilton leads a Marquette Adult Day Services group in practicing tai chi.

Marquette Adult Day Services began when Marquette’s First Presbyterian Church was the beneficiary of a $300,000 bequest from the Schrandt sisters in 1978. Church leaders and members spent a great deal of time deciding how the bequest would best be used. Two members of the committee who were meeting to determine the best use of the funds were Hilton and Donna Berryman. Among other things, they suggested that a portion of the funds be used to expand the monthly Lunch Bunch meetings into a more formalized day care center for the frail elderly.

Lunch Bunch was established as a way for elderly and frail members of the church to get together, eat, chat and sing. Not only did this monthly program provide social and intellectual stimulation to church members whose mental and physical disabilities were negatively affecting their quality of life, but also their caregivers. As a caregiver, Berryman knew from first-hand experience how valuable a brief respite from the demands of caring for someone could be for the caregiver.
George Carnahan, Hilton and Berryman developed a proposal for funding “to provide a facility where senior citizens requiring supervision can be housed and cared for during the day.” The proposal for the facility and remodeling ground-floor rooms of the church were submitted to Session.
Pastor Gordon Ingram endorsed the idea for the church to provide yearly support for the program. Bob Kulisheck accepted the position of chairman of the board of directors and helped draft the organization’s first bylaws, located additional funding opportunities and explored suitable meeting facilities because the First Presbyterian facilities were not accessible.
The fledgling program opened its doors on July 31, 1979 in the Marquette Senior Center under the direction of Marian Guelff, a social worker experienced in working with the elderly. The program operated five days a week with Guelff and a team of volunteers. On its first day of operation, the center had two clients supervised by an equal number of staff and volunteers. From that day on, the center continued to grow.
It was important to Hilton and other board members that the staff, volunteers and board members be adequately trained and knowledgeable about how best to serve their clients. “In those early days, we were the only program of this type in the U.P.,” Hilton said. “We would travel to Lower Michigan for training. There were probably eight to ten programs like this in the whole state. We were at the forefront of this type of programming.”
Staff members are CPR and First Aid certified. The organization runs a criminal background check on each staff member who is hired. Program assistants are trained to meet the special needs of the elderly as well as people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of memory loss.
“Many people realize how the client gains in this program, but they don’t always realize the impact the clients have on the volunteers and staff,” Hilton said. “Over the years, I have seen how the group bonds as a family unit. Clients will worry if they don’t see a staff member. Of course, if a client is unable to attend, he or she is missed by the staff and participants.”

Kathy Houghton leads a sing-along at Marquette Adult Day Services.

Kathy Houghton leads a sing-along at Marquette Adult Day Services.

The organization continued to provide services in various locations over subsequent years. The mission never changed, but along the way, new funders and organizations stepped up to insure this critical program would continue.
In 1987, First Presbyterian Church renovated the first floor of its building and made the facility accessible. The Senior Day Care Center was welcomed “home.” Church pastors and members became more involved with the daily activities of the Senior Day Care Center. As the number of clients and programs expanded, the church allowed more and more of its facility to be used.
In 2009, a fire in the church’s furnace room required the center to close temporarily. As in the past, members of the community stepped up to continue the important work. Tom Tourville offered the use of the Tourville West Activity Room until the furnace was repaired, the facility was cleaned and the space was safe for clients to return.

Also in 2009, the organization received a grant from the Great Lakes Center for Youth Development to develop marketing materials and get much needed computer equipment and board training. One of the board’s first activities was to undertake strategic planning. A new name and mission statement for the organization was adopted.
The mission of the Adult Day Services program is to offer people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, or who are isolated and frail, opportunities to engage in meaningful social and recreational activities in a safe and nurturing environment. The program offers caregivers respite and support while the participants maintain their social and cognitive abilities.
In 2014, Marquette Adult Day Services moved from the First Presbyterian Church to a new meeting place at Messiah Lutheran Church. The new facility includes an office for the center’s director, Melissa Luttrell, and staff.
Sessions are held three days a week—Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Participants can be delivered to the accessible facility by their caregiver, or are given the option to be picked up by bus. MarqTran provides a dedicated run for the program, so clients are the only ones transported on the bus. A center staff member is also present on the bus to assist clients onto the bus and into the center.
The center can serve up to twelve people per day. This limit is based on the size of the facility. A ratio of one staff member to no more than four clients is maintained to assure the safety of the clients. Adequate staffing guarantees the client will be integrated into the group for maximum participation in daily activities, which means that mental and motor skills will be stimulated.
The age range for current clients stretches from fifty-six to 101 years old. Clients are encouraged to spend the entire day at the center. This block of five hours allows them maximum contact with staff and other participants. It also insures they get a good mix of activities. A full five hours for the caregiver to take some time for him or her self, run errands, go to appointments, shop and complete other tasks is very valuable.
“Marquette Adult Day Services offers a safe and supportive place for seniors with memory loss as well as those who may be isolated,” Luttrell said. “Visiting the center offers them a better quality of life and some independence. It also give caregivers a much-needed respite from caregiving.”
The daughter of a Marquette Adult Day Services client says, “Interaction in a group setting has helped to stimulate my mother. She returns home happier and sleeps better because of the experience you provide. I know that my mother is with reputable, caring staff, and it eases my mind that she is in a safe and secure environment.”
Marquette Adult Day Services uses a sliding scale based on income to set the daily rate for participation. The rate runs from $25 to $50 per day. Nobody is denied service due to inability to pay. The daily fee, in addition to funding from UPCAP, United Way, the Marquette County Senior Services millage and contributions from the community, memorials, service clubs and local foundations support the organization.
Participants also eat lunch at the center. Clients can bring their own lunch or have a lunch prepared by AMCAB. Despite changes in location, staff and funding, the program has not strayed too far from the original inception as the Lunch Bunch.
Marquette Adult Day Services looks for interesting and creative ways to challenge clients. Art and music activities have been extremely successful. Barb Knox of the Art Academy contracts with the organization to provide art activities. Watercolor painting has been very popular.
Christine Johnston, a former Marquette Adult Day Services participant, passed away last spring. Her career was teaching home economics, but she had never considered herself “artsy.” During her time with Marquette Adult Day Services she developed into quite an artist. After her death, her family wanted to share her artwork with the public as a tribute to recognize the quality of life she experienced through the organization. Twenty-six of her watercolor paintings were featured in a one-woman show at Peter White Public Library’s Huron Mountain Club Gallery in January 2015.
Another Marquette Adult Day Services participant, Judy Stoner, shared her knowledge of the life of Vincent Van Gogh with the group in January as a tribute to her friend Christine. The members of the group then created a Van Gogh-inspired painting.
Participants Joann and Sheila also led an activity based on a story and the creation of crepe paper flowers.
“It’s valuable for members of the group to share their knowledge and expertise with the others,” Luttrell said. “It gives them a boost in self-esteem and allows them to share their interests.”
Kathy Houghton visits the group on a regular basis to share music and dance. Sing-alongs featuring classic songs are especially popular with the group.
“People with memory loss often retain their longer term memories, so they remember the words to songs they sang in the past,” Luttrell said.
Special guests keep the activities at the center lively. The group has learned how to arrange flowers with staff from Garden Bouquet & Design; they study and write poetry, go on field trips and bake bread. A popular activity is spa day, when they get hand and shoulder massages and nail art.
Light exercise and movement is also encouraged. Dance, tai chi and Qigong are some activities offered. Games including trivia, crosswords, tic-tac-toe and bowling are used to stimulate mind and body.
The group also tries to complete a community service project once a month. January’s project was making small gift boxes for UPAWS. A gift box containing cat food, a catnip mouse and a toy created by a Marquette Adult Day Services participant was included. Other projects have included stuffing envelopes for local non-profits and making lap blankets for hospice patients.
“I know participation in our services has delayed by months or years the need for our clients to transition to a nursing home,” Hilton said. “I have seen that for myself and have been told over and over again by caregivers how much Marquette Adult Day Services has helped their loved ones maintain their health and quality of life.”
Hilton is proud that she continues to play a role with Marquette Adult Day Services. Over the years, she has seen changes in the organization. Not only have the staff, volunteers and location changed, but services and support have been strengthened.
“I used to hear what a wonderful job we had done with their grandmother or father,” Hilton said. “Now I hear the same about the services we offer their mother or father. I feel so blessed that this program has not only been able to serve our community for thirty-five years, but that the program has served several generations. That is a gift to me, and I get satisfaction in knowing that what we have built has prospered.”
For details, visit or call 226-2142.



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