With a combination of 22 years volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter,outgoing Board of Directors Kris Bakowski and Joanne Truffelman reflect on the last 22 years of seeing organizational changes, the impact the organization has made and the impact they have individually made to the organization. Both volunteers have a different lenses on how they look at Alzheimer’s disease and have worn many volunteer hats, but one of the many things they have in common is their deep rooted appreciation and love for the Alzheimer’s Association.
When did you start volunteering and what roles have you had?
“I started volunteering in 2002. After my diagnosis of younger-onset Alzheimer’s, I wanted to do something to help. Since I wasn’t a doctor or a researcher I knew I couldn’t help in that area, but I wanted to do something that might make a difference”.
“The Alzheimer’s Association asked me to start telling my story to groups around the state. Then, I was asked to be on the National Early Stage Advisory Group. This group was made up of 11 people with early on set Alzheimer’s and was used in an advisory capacity to our national office. At the time, there were not many people speaking out that actually had the disease and they were looking to help with our lives and hopefully be able to reach out to more people”.
“I began as a volunteer after handling the marketing for about six years, in 2008. I wanted to stay involved because I was cognizant of the fact that this disease was in dire need of much help in raising awareness of the disease and the Alzheimer’s Association. I’ve served on the Board for some 12 years, chairing it for two years. While being on the board, I have served on the Marketing Committee, the Development Committee and the Nominating Committee”.
“I’ve also Chaired, Co-Chaired, danced (first year) and been on the Dancing Stars of Atlanta committee for 11 years. I’ve watched that event grow from grossing $125,000 to almost $1 million”.
What is your fondest memory of volunteering/ serving on the board?
“The first Alzheimer’s Association Leadership Conference I attended was so eye-opening of the disease. The “who” it can affect and “how” it affects the care-givers as well as the people with the disease. Experiencing the impact that the Alzheimer’s Association has on raising funds for research, government grants and seeing the volunteers and staff striving to reach their goals and fulfill the mission, “to see a world without Alzheimer’s” was awe-inspiring”.
“Probably the other fond memory was Chairing and Co-Chairing the Dancing Stars event. Being responsible for raising hundreds of thousands of dollars through other volunteer dancers and pros and putting on an event that now has a legacy, reputed to be one of the best in Atlanta, growing exponentially and for such a great cause”!
“Going to our national advocacy forum and the leadership council meetings was something that meant a lot to me. Meeting so many wonderful people that give of their time and make such a difference in the Alzheimer’s community. It helps to put things into perspective as to how we are treating this disease around the country”.
Can you think of a time(s) when you knew what you were doing was making an impact?
“I think this was evident when I was serving on the National Advisory group. We were asked by the national office to come up with some causes we thought needed to be addressed as those with early on-set Alzheimer’s. The main issue we tackled was the need for Alzheimer’s patients to get Social Security Disability right after a diagnosis. We worked together in helping to get this passed in Washington and was able to meet those in Washington to make this happen”.
“It take a village” and I’m not sure if I can sight where I alone made an impact, however I feel I’ve been a catalyst for fund-raising growth for the Georgia Chapter and awareness of the disease and Alzheimer’s Association in our state ( more than ever). Probably recruiting and gaining the interest of a great deal of people in the community into the Dancing Stars event and the Board of Directors is where I see the impact as it relates to donations/fund-raising and influencing others to be involved”.
What do you feel is the greatest impact the Alzheimer’s Association has made since you have been a volunteer?
“In 2011 the NIH funding was at approximately $500 million and was #4 on the list of NIH Several of them have seen fewer fatalities because of research and funding, but NOT Alzheimer’s. Since then, the Alzheimer’s Association with their Advocacy programs and AIM, we have been able to bring Alzheimer’s up to #2 for necessary funding to the tune of $2.8 billion. An amazing feat of accomplishment”.
“I feel as if they have opened up the eyes of many that this is not just a senior citizen problem. This affects whole families. This affects communities. They have also addressed many issues like elder abuse, helping those living alone with the disease and continue with cutting edge research in trying to find a cure”.
What would you say to someone who is interested in serving on the board or volunteering?
“If you or someone you know has this disease don’t be afraid to speak up. The Association provides you with all the information and training you need to do what you feel comfortable with. Start small by working with a walk in your area, or talking to your church group. Help to find resources where Alzheimer’s education is needed. Do what you feel comfortable doing”.
“If you have any desire to volunteer for a non-profit, which is quite frankly the most rewarding, the Alzheimer’s Association is on its way to finding a cure and or at the very least medications that can help slow down the effects through research initiatives. It’s the most insidious disease! A disease that is the 6th leading cause of death with 5 mil people living with the disease, 1 in 3 deaths from dementia or Alzheimer’s and 16 million in unpaid care – we must fund the research and find a cure!”
What is your hope for the future of the Alzheimer’s Association?
“I hope we can continue to reach more and more people through the medical community and to continue to be there for anyone who needs us. I hope the research continues and that we can find a way to diagnose this disease earlier and to hopefully one day find a cure”.
“I know we will one day see ‘a world without Alzheimer’s’ – hopefully that will be the reality from the Alzheimer’s Association”.
To our Board of Directors during National Volunteer Month: We will never be able to fully express the amount of gratitude we have for each and every second you donate to help move our mission forward.
The fight to end Alzheimer’s is stronger because of you. Thank you!
If you are interested in learning more about how you can help in the fight against Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org/georgia