by Rachel Turner
Melinda Franklin volunteers at the Alzheimer’s Association Western & Central Washington Chapter and the Greenwood Senior Center in Early Stage Memory Loss programs.
Most recently, Melinda’s work has been to bring the award winning drama Memory Care Plays to Seattle May 8 and 9. Click here to learn more and buy tickets.
Melinda Franklin greets participants of the Seattle Zoo Walk at the Woodland Park Zoo. The activity provides people with memory loss and their caregivers an opportunity to exercise and socialize in a safe, beautiful environment. “My favorite part of volunteering is the social engagement with people with memory loss,” said Melinda. “I lead a zoo walk every Monday for people with early stage memory loss and it’s the most rewarding. We’re a micro community.” Alice and Paul Padilla look at animals at the Woodland Park Zoo. “I accept this disease,” said Alice Padilla. “I enjoy my life. I truly enjoy my life. Bad things happen and because of it, I’ve grown stronger, and I can adjust.” Participants walk and talk together through the zoo. “When I began leading the zoo walk, I realized that I did carry a stigma based on a fear of not knowing how to interact with people with memory loss and what to expect from them,” said Melinda. “The greatest thing I’ve learned is that people with memory loss are just people. And even though they have memory loss—they’re here. They may not be able to respond to you the way people without memory loss respond, but when they give you a hug, grab your hand, look you in the eye—they’re here.” Participants view animals through a window. “I worked for 42 years. I was engrossed in my career,” said Melinda. “It gave me the financial security I felt I needed, but my soul was not fulfilled. I always felt guilty because I wanted to give back to community. So when I did retire, I learned about the Alzheimer’s Association volunteer opportunities through a Reason to Hope Breakfast.” The Alzheimer’s Association Early Stage Memory Loss Coordinator Katherine Painter encourages people to connect with their community outdoors. “Being surrounded by plants, wildlife and fresh air is just an added benefit to connecting with a community who really understands the journey and what you’re going through,” said Katherine. “You are not alone.” Melinda speaks with participants at the Woodland Park Zoo Cafe.“It’s a lot easier having a reason to hope while living in Seattle area where there is so much going on to support the people with memory loss,” said Melinda. “That’s where my heart is—supporting the people.” “As a volunteer, you can choose to do what makes you happy—what you enjoy– and at the same time make an impact,” said Melinda. “I think sometimes that my volunteering is selfish because we have a fabulous time together. If you volunteer in an area where you have a passion—it fills your soul–for me, it’s at the zoo.”
For more information on activities for those with early stage memory loss, contact Katherine Painter at 206.529.3868 or firstname.lastname@example.org or for information about volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association, please contact Cori Hoffman at email@example.com.