Connections

Interfaith CarePartners®

Volume 23, May 2012

25 Years of Caregiving: Remembering the Early Years
Shelp in April, 1985 begins our story. Dr. Shelp had returned from a visiting professorship at Dartmouth College to his teaching duties in the Texas Medical Center when the phone rang. His research assistant who was a Ph.D. candidate at Rice University frighteningly asked, “Can you take me to Hermann Hospital? The campus Jay Jones doctor thinks I have AIDS.” Shelp soon realized that Jay’s disease would cause him to be increasingly dependent on others for daily tasks, isolate him socially due to rampant fear and public stigma, and, finally, prematurely end his life. Shelp and his pastoral care colleague, Dr. Ron Sunderland, promised Jay that they would share his journey and support him as they could. To prepare for what was ahead, Shelp and Sunderland spent time in an AIDS clinic learning about and meeting people with the disease. Many had no one who cared about or for them. They struggled to live with dignity and typically died alone. High profile clergy declared that ‘they’ deserved their fate. Shelp and Sunderland viewed people with AIDS differently. They understood illness, regardless of its name, as a claim upon the compassion of God’s people. People in the clinic had intense needs for basic assistance. They longed for a comforting embrace. They were like the vulnerable widows, orphans, outcasts, and aliens (the ‘poor’) whose cause was championed by Israel’s prophets and Jesus. Shelp and Sunderland believed that the place for God’s people during the AIDS epidemic was to be with these ‘poor,’ not apart from them. They recruited friends to join them in caring for people with AIDS. Known as the ‘Mission Squad,’ these friends were the ‘Care Team’ prototype who coordinated their time with and support of people from the clinic who were dying. Shelp and Sunderland asked clergy to let them educate their congregations about AIDS and the opportunities for compassionate ministry created by the epidemic. Beginning in January 1986, members of congregations began forming AIDS Care Team® groups who were matched with people
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uring 2012, Interfaith CarePartners is celebrating two milestones. The first is the 25th anniversary of the pioneering Care Team® program of congregation-based volunteer caregiving. The second is the gift by Care Team members of 2 million hours of service in the program. Both milestones are reasons to look back in gratitude and to look forward in anticipation. Each quarterly issue of Connections this year will include a report of pivotal times or events that have shaped, expanded, or enriched the mission of Interfaith CarePartners to care for weak and vulnerable people. In this issue, we recall the challenging years of 1986 – 1992 during which we led the nation in fashioning a compassionate response to people touched by HIV/ AIDS. The next issue (July) will describe our stewardship of the Care Team® concept and caregiving expertise in creating volunteer safety nets for families affected by dementia (most commonly Alzheimer’s disease), physically weakening adults of all ages, and, lastly, families with a special needs child. There will be a brief review of services that have complemented the Care Team program at various times in our history. Lastly, we shall describe some of the goodwill, time, talent, and money that have come together to sustain our programs and establish a reputation of excellence. In October, we shall review some of the local, state, and national awards that honor every person and organization that have been part of our programs. We shall discuss, also, how organizations in other communities have utilized our methods throughout our history as another indication of the innovation and credibility of our programs. The annual report issue (December) will summarize the life-enriching and life-giving results of our care for weak and vulnerable people. Although the issue will include statistical measures of what has been achieved; more importantly, you will hear voices of people whose lives have been blessed because the founders of Interfaith CarePartners answered a call in 1985. The Beginning and Afterward The misfortune of one young man led to the creation of the Care Team concept and method of congregation-based, shared, coordinated, and supervised volunteer caregiving that is the heart of Interfaith CarePartners. Jay’s call to Dr. Earl

the first article by religious authors to ened, alone, powerless, and stigmainterpret AIDS non-judgmentally and tized. They were not, however, without compassionately. National religious from the clinic. These team members dignity, hope, and determination. Like and secular attention immediately became family to the people they many seized by progressive terminal turned to the AIDS Care Team® project embraced. Their presence and illness, they responded humbly, enthuand its creators. siastically, and gratefully to Calls from religious book publishers any gesture of care, comfollowed. People with AIDS were panionship, and acceptance stigmatized by negative stereotypes. by Shelp and Sunderland Shelp and Sunderland decided that or the growing number of a first step in building bridges to volunteers in congregations people with AIDS would be to help who befriended and assisted readers meet them as persons with them. talents, families, goals, and sorrows. Education was nearly AIDS: Personal Stories in Pastoral always required before peoPerspective, also published in 1986, ple would respond to a call told stories of people with AIDS and to care. The first interdiscithose who cared for them. This book plinary educational program was followed by four others about AIDS for clergy and laypeople was beginning with AIDS and the Church held on January 28, 1986 at Dr. Earl Shelp Dr. Ron Sunderland in 1987 and ending with AIDS and the South Main Baptist Church. Church: The Second Decade in 1992. assistance declared that people with Hundreds of concerned people heard These books, additional articles in AIDS were not abandoned by God or factual presentations by a physician, soprofessional journals and newspapers, God’s people. This was the nation’s first cial worker, attorney, and clergy. This national media interviews and stories hands-on, non-judgmental caregiving event is remembered by all who attendwere complemented by more than project involving congregations. ed because of the additional news that 40 invited speeches at international, Our interest to be a compassionate day of the explosion of Space Shuttle national, and local conferences from and reconciling presence for all people Challenger. 1986 through 1990. At the same time, touched by or concerned about HIV/AIDS The next major educational event more congregations were joining the culminated in another landmark event in was May 27, 1988 when Surgeon AIDS Care Team project in Houston. February 1987. The heads of many faith General C. Everett Koop addressed All of this was happening while Shelp communities and congregational clergy a capacity audience at the same and Sunderland continued fullcame together to conduct an AIDS location. This was an time teaching. Sabbath Observance that featured four invitation-only event special interfaith services at different due to security for Dr. Interfaith CarePartners locations: a service of reconciliation, Koop: an indication of Their writing, speaking, a commissioning of those who serve hostility often directed caregiving, and organizing persons with AIDS and their loved ones, toward persons with activities also attracted critia celebration of prophecy and hope, and events about cism and recrimination. They and a community memorial service. AIDS. He applauded were increasingly excited Media coverage was extensive. Each the pioneering about the effectiveness and service met a particular need and was response to AIDS by personal growth of AIDS Care well attended. The weekend climax faith communities in Team members, the blessing was the memorial service at St. Anne’s Houston and hoped they were to the people they Catholic Church where a full sanctuary for “networks such as C. Everett Koop, M.D. served usually until death, and of people lit hundreds of candles and yours to spring up all the potential of the Care Team concept publicly mourned 6 years of losses that across the land.” Dr. Koop’s appearance to equip congregations to embrace pertoo often had been kept secret. These was another indication of the national sons with long-term care needs caused special observances continued until attention being given to the responses by other degenerative conditions. A 1992 when it was decided that they had of Houston’s faith communities for growing sense of stewardship of what fulfilled their original purposes to unite which Interfaith CarePartners was the they were learning and a desire not to faith communities and persons touched catalyst. be distracted by critics led Shelp and by AIDS, and to counter strident voices Sunderland to incorporate the Foundathat garnered so much media attention. National Spotlight tion for Interfaith Research and MinisComments by some public figures Shelp and Sunderland decided try (FIRM) which began operations in during these years stoked fears of infecto speak to a broader audience about September 1988 when Shelp resigned tion and reinforced negative judgments opportunities for faith communities to his faculty positions. Sunderland about persons with the disease; most be constructively engaged with people joined him in January 1989. The corcommonly, but not exclusively, men touched by AIDS. Their article, “AIDS porate name was changed to Interfaith who had sex with men and injection and the Church,” described AIDS as a CarePartners in 2000 in order to better drug users during the first decade of the challenge to the identity and obedience convey its servant mission. epidemic. To Shelp and Sunderland, in of people of God. The Christian The transition from the academy to contrast, they were not to be feared or Century, a respected and widely an independent, interfaith servant orgacondemned. They were children of God read ecumenical journal, published nization carried risks. Although 22 conwho typically were frightened, weakthe article in September 1986. It was
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gregations were participating in the AIDS Care Team project and interest was growing, funding to sustain the new agency in a controversial arena was more in doubt. A few individual donors and Northwoods Presbyterian Church provided a total of approximately $12,000 in seed money. This venture capital, a 12-month contract for $88,000 with the Texas Department of Health, and donated office space at Bellaire Presbyterian Church were all that was certain as a leap of faith was taken. Individuals, congregations, foundations, community groups, and state and federal contracts underwrote a growing caregiving program of HIV/AIDS services. A leap of faith and belief that “people will take care of us, if we take care of people” were validated. Congregations and their members continued to answer the call to serve in growing numbers each year through 1992 when 710 new AIDS Care Team members joined existing teams to serve 429 persons with AIDS contributing nearly 112,000 hours of service. Though people served by teams were dying at the rate of about 3 per week, new life-prolonging drugs began to enable people with AIDS to be less dependent on others. As a consequence, the number of persons served by an AIDS Care Team has progressively declined since 1992. This good news, however, did not mean that the Care Team concept and methods of volunteer caregiving were no longer of value. When Interfaith CarePartners was founded, Shelp and Sunderland were interested to apply the Care Team concept and methods to people with other conditions who with volunteer support could live independently and more fully. The first attempt to apply what had been learned in serving people with AIDS began in 1990. Six congregations were recruited to participate in a pilot project in which congregational teams would provide companionship, practical assistance, and non-proselytizing spiritual support to persons with a disabling condition. Congregations recognized that their support of members for short periods tended to be more effective than when these needs were prolonged. We wanted to determine if a GenCare Team

(a neologism for ‘general care’) could add to a congregation’s comprehensive care of its members. The results of the GenCare Team project will be reported in the next issue of Connections which will discuss our stewardship of the Care Team concept from 1990 to the present. It is important to note in this issue that highlights our work from 1986 through 1992 that the founders’ concern for the ‘weak and vulnerable’ was not limited to people with AIDS. Sixteen months after the doors of Interfaith CarePartners opened, the first attempt began to embrace and sustain others with similar needs. Back to the Beginning This highly selective and abbreviated report of key events in the founding and early years of the Care Team program and Interfaith CarePartners fails to acknowledge all of the people and organizations who had a role in our developing story. This omission does not imply, however, that what has been achieved could have been without their unique contribution. The founders always have seen themselves and the organization as catalysts to bring people together for mutual care. They did not foresee when they began a journey with Jay where each successive step would take them. Shelp answered a call. Sunderland came alongside. From those moments until now, God has blessed a program that provides a structure within which people are enabled to care for one another. Jay died in June 1989. Some might say that his role in the story ended then. But, in truth, his contribution continues. Relatively few who have been involved in our programs in Houston or where our methods have been used across the country know that Jay’s misfortune was the start of a congregational caregiving

movement. His call for a ride were the first words in a continuing conversation about how faith communities can be faithful to their identity and mission with respect to people who are ill or impaired, regardless of the name of the disease or nature of impairment. It is difficult to be grateful that Jay became ill. It is easy to be grateful for all of the good that has been experienced as a result. The next chapter in that redeeming story will be told in the July issue of Connections. Join the Founders’ Circle All who value the caregiving and educational programs of Interfaith CarePartners are invited to be members of the Founders’ Circle. The Founders’ Circle is being launched in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Care Team program, in gratitude for 2 million hours of service by volunteer Care Team members, and in appreciation of the vision and leadership of our founders, Dr. Earl Shelp and Dr. Ron Sunderland. You may join the Founders’ Circle by making an annual contribution of at least $500 in support of our programs. Benefits of being a member of the Founders’ Circle include name recognition in the annual report and an invitation to a private reception at which a report will be given on all current and planned activities. Our initial goal for the Founders’ Circle is 50 members whose gifts will constitute an initial installment of $25,000 to celebrate 25 years of service and volunteer caregiving. Members may make their gift in full or in installments during a calendar year. Kindly write on your check or include a note that the gift is to join the Founders’ Circle.

An Anniversary Sweet Charity
Leap day (February 29) was a special time for Interfaith CarePartners. Our annual Sweet Charity celebration of volunteer caregiving spotlighted two milestones in our history: 25th anniversary of the Care Team program and 2 million hours of volunteer service in the program. We were honored that Nancy Reagan was Honorary Chairman of the dinner. Mrs. Reagan received our Sustaining Presence Award in 2003 when we celebrated 1 million hours of Care Team member service. Our distinguished honorees this year were Lynn Wyatt and Reliant, an NRG company. Patrick Summers, Artistic and Music Director of the Houston Grand Opera, chronicled the good
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work of Lynn Wyatt and Dr. Earl Shelp summarized the communitybuilding activities of Reliant prior to each being presented the Sustaining Presence Award. As a result of the enthusiastic leadership of Pat Breen, Karen Jones, and Cynthia Petrello, who were chairmen of the evening, and hard work of the Underwriter Committee, more than 360 guests enjoyed a delicious meal, gourmet dessert fair of take home sweet treats, stirring tributes to the honorees, and, most importantly, inspirational testimonies. Roy Walter, Emeritus Rabbi of Congregation Emanu El, recalled the earliest days of the program and the continuing relationship of his congregation with Interfaith CarePartners. Lydia Alvarado spoke beautifully about how her husband Angel has lived more fully with Alzheimer’s disease with the support of dedicated Care Team members. Lorrie Dawlearn, an Alzheimer’s Care Team member at St. Cecilia Catholic Church which serves Lydia and Angel, spoke warmly of her relationship with and fondness for Lydia and Angel that have deepened through the months. Each speaker helped guests understand how

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Patrick Summers and Lynn Wyatt

Earl Shelp and Karen Jones

their support for Sweet Charity is transformed into companionship, encouragement, self-determination, joy, and hope for thousands of people each year who participant in one or more of our service and educational programs. Major underwriters were Nabors Industries and Petrello Family Foundation, Reliant, and Southwestern Energy. These generous donors were joined by Baker Hughes, Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, CenterPoint Energy, Deloitte, Cherie and Jim Flores, Clare A. Glassell, George H. Lewis & Sons

Funeral Home, Hildebrand Foundation, Peggy and Steve Hinchman, Carol and Randy Limbacher, Marathon Oil Company, John P. McGovern Foundation, Janice and Robert McNair, Anita and Steve Mueller, Schlumberger, USA Compression, and Lynn and Oscar Wyatt, Jr. whose individual and combined gifts become lifelines to people being overwhelmed by physical and cognitive challenges. We extend heartfelt thanks to everyone who made Sweet Charity a leap day to cherish!

Connections is the newsletter of Interfaith CarePartners® Email:
Web Page:
info@interfaithcarepartners.org www.interfaithcarepartners.org

Roy Walter

Earl. E Shelp, Ph.D. President Ronald H. Sunderland, Ed.D Co-Founder Janie Alderman Design Layout and Design

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