Since his retirement several years ago as executive director of the Paducah-McCracken County Riverport Authority, winding up a 40-year career in the marine industry, Ken Canter has managed to stay busy.
He’s done several things regarding seniors, including church work, teaching a Sunday School class and driving a Medicaid bus around town.
“I don’t think I could just sit around,” he said, noting he has stayed busy in different volunteer roles.
So, in some ways it makes sense that when Made to Stay, a local nonprofit that provides (non-medical) services to seniors to help them stay in their homes, was looking for someone to be in charge of volunteers, Canter got the job.
“They (founders Carol and Dave Wright) were searching for someone who could actually become the first full-time employee,” Canter said. “My role primarily is in recruitment of volunteers and also fundraising or securing grants.”
“We’re so glad to have him on board because we really need the kind of expertise he had,” Carol Wright said.
The Wrights founded the organization in 2015, because they recognized a need that wasn’t being met by any other organization.
The fact that Made to Stay is still in operation proves the need to help seniors with things like transportation to doctor’s appointments or shopping still exists, she said.
“I don’t think we’re as big as we could be because it’s just so hard to find volunteers, that’s always a tough thing,” Wright said.
“Of course, COVID didn’t’ really help anything either. There’s just tons of people out there that need that kind of service that we provide.”
Ideally, Made to Stay would like to have one volunteer for each member who received services, to allow for scheduling flexibility, Canter said. The approximate age range for members is 70 to the mid-90s. Volunteers age range is estimated at 50-70.
Volunteers are fully vetted in the application process.
“I think the misconception is if you’re a volunteer that somebody’s going to call you and tell you what you need to do and when,” he said. “That’s not the case.”
Each Thursday, a list of the services needed is posted on the organization’s website that only volunteers have access to, so they can arrange their schedule.
“The list fills up usually by Friday morning. It shows that the volunteers care for these people, and they really do. A lot of them get close to them just like family,” he said.
The services Made to Stay provides are appreciated by members and volunteers alike.
“They (members) are constantly saying, ‘I don’t know what I would do if it wasn’t for Made to Stay,” Canter said. “We treat them like they’re our own family. We want to do what’s best for them ... and they deserve it.”
And, for the volunteers, “It gives all of us a feeling of satisfaction,” he added.
The number of potential members is only going to increase as the baby boomers age, Wright said.
“This age group that we’re serving is just absolutely exploding in numbers. It’s just a necessary thing and we do a service that others don’t provide. We’re not a care-giving agency. We’re just primarily transportation, what’s called escorted transportation,” she said.
“We take them (appointments, shopping, groceries). We stay with them, assist them in whatever they need.”
During COVID, volunteers would do the shopping for members. The organization is expecting to resume what is considered “normal” operations around July 1.
Canter hopes to soon be able to address local civic clubs and organizations in person as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, both from a fundraising and volunteer recruiting perspective.
“Three years ago, I was asked to teach a senior Sunday School class, to fill in for a teacher that was out of town,” he said.
“The minister called me after that on Monday and said the class had voted me in. I didn’t know the teacher was retiring. I was on trial, I guess, until they selected me.”
That experience “is leading me to working with seniors, it’s so gratifying,” Canter said.