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Providing Care to the Caregivers of the Community: The ARK

By Elisha Neubauer

The date was January 1996. Summerville's local Lutheran church, St. Luke's, wanted to start a community outreach program that was focused on senior citizens. Seeking a direction to take the program in, the church found its path in a member of the congregation, Peg Lahmeyer (Executive Director and Founder), who had been caring for her mother, an elderly woman who had been afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. After seeing the effect the disease had on their fellow churchgoer and her family, the church quickly decided on a concentration.

The program started as a one-day-a-week function but has since grown, offering respite care and services to over five counties. Several years later, in 2005, the program developed another chapter- the NOAH Project. The Neighborhood Alzheimer's Outreach Help Project was launched in order to help other communities start their own support services for families facing the same disease. The project helped to organize education, screenings, support groups, and respite care in the surrounding areas.

"As we look to the future, The NOAH Project is our driving force to help caregiving families continue to work, cope, and thrive as caregivers and maintain a quality of life for the family unit," Megan Severn, Special Events Coordinator, said.

The ARK looks to offer a break from the hectic day-to-day, around the clock caregiving that is required when a family member develops Alzheimer's disease. The program offers a wide variety of services for both caregivers and patients. A social activity program for patients includes interactive cognitive games, exercise, singing, dancing, stain glass projects, and snacks and lunches.

For those who are on the caregiving side of the disease, and for those living in the household, the program offers several support groups, workshops and luncheons, and first responder training.

To help sustain this magnificent outreach program, the organization hosts the Dancing With the ARK's Stars event. This annual event, now in its seventh year, partners eight local celebrities with professional dancers from the Elite International Dance Studio located in Mount Pleasant. The concept is similar to the world-renowned television show, with the paired dancers competing for votes, which are $10 and can be cast in advance or the night of the event.

"The celebrity who raises the most money by 'votes' wins the Mirror Ball Trophy," Severn said.

The event has been wildly successful. Last year, in 2016, the affair raised an incredible $82,000- a record-breaking year for the program. According to Severn, the entirety of the funds stay local in order to provide support and relief to the families living with Alzheimer's or related dementia.

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About The Author

Elisha Neubauer is a freelance editor, ghostwriter, book reviewer, and author. She is...

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