GEORGIA CHAPTER BOARD MEMBERS REFLECT ON THEIR YEARS SERVING ON THE BOARD

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?

Kris Bakowski

“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”. 

Kris and her son Alan attending the 2008 Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C.

Joanne Truffelman

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”.

Joanne speaking at the 2018 Dancing Stars of Atlanta

What is your fondest memory of volunteering/ serving on the board? 

Joanne Truffelman

“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”!

Joanne with CEO Harry Johns at the 2018 Leadership Summit in New Orleans, Louisana

Kris Bakowski

“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”.

Kris advocating in 2008 at the Georgia Capitol

Can you think of a time(s) when you knew what you were doing was making an impact?

Kris Bakowski

“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”. 

Joanne Truffelman:

“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?

Joanne Truffelman

“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”.

From LTR: Advocate Lithangia Murray; Congressman John Lewis; Joanne Truffelman; and Alzheimer’s Association staff MaryLea Boatwright Quinn at the 2018 AIM Advocacy Forum in Washington D.C.

Kris Bakowski

“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”.

From LTR: Kris Bakowski; Dr. Fayron Epps, Alzheimer’s Association funded researcher; Jill Disney, Alzheimer’s Association staff; and Dr. Whitney Wharton, Alzheimer’s Association funded researcher

What would you say to someone who is interested in serving on the board or volunteering?

Kris Bakowski

“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”.

Joanne Truffelman

“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?

Kris Bakowski

“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”.

Kris with her Walk to End Alzheimer’s team – “Team Athens”

Joanne Truffelman

“I know we will one day see ‘a world without Alzheimer’s’ – hopefully that will be the reality from the Alzheimer’s Association”.

From LTR: Joanne Truffelman; volunteer Leslie McCloud; Brenda Woods; Michelle and Tom Davis attending 2018 Dancing Stars of Atlanta

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

When it comes to Alzheimer’s, this Georgia teen has done his homework

By Sharna Fulton

Imagine a typical high school junior and you might picture a teenager taking classes and spending time with friends. He or she might play sports or belong to a school club as they’re starting to think about a job or where to go to college when they graduate.

What might not come to mind is a young man who spends his free time as a youth advocate, and someone who already has a platform to make a difference on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Khidhr at the Atlanta office of the Alzheimer’s Association

But then again, Khidhr Kotaria is not your average 11th grader. A student at Peachtree Ridge High School in Gwinnett County, Khidhr’s family moved from Kenya to the United States four years ago to provide him with a better education. The plan is evidently working. Aside from taking AP classes, he’s already accomplishing goals beyond his years. Khidhr has big plans for the future, too with his sights set on studying neuroscience at Dartmouth, going to med school and eventually becoming a health correspondent for the United Nations.

As for Khidhr’s current mission, he’s helping the fight against Alzheimer’s. After seeing the movie, “Gifted Hands,“ he became interested in neurology. That led him to volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association and create the first youth movement against the leading type of dementia in Georgia. “Adults sometimes recognize youth as being selfish and not having a global perspective,” says Kotaria. “When we’re able to speak out against this disease, it makes an impact. Our voice means a lot.”

Kotaria is so passionate about the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association, he’s recruited fellow students to join his chapter, Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s Chapter (YMAA). The group recently met with state legislatures at the Alzheimer’s Awareness Day at the State Capitol.

Khidhr started volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter almost a year ago. An articulate and persuasive speaker with a wide vocabulary, he first worked as a community educator to provide individuals with local resources and information about the disease. Today, he serves on the advocacy side as a Youth Advocate for the D07 congressional team.

So, what exactly does he like about being a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association?

“I enjoy knowing I’m helping to impact society and influence millions of lives that suffer from the disease.”

To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter and how you can make a difference as a volunteer, visit alz.org/georgia.

Volunteer, Nathan Brandon puts his administrative leadership to work on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Association

Newly formed in February, the committee for the inaugural ‘Cherokee County Walk to End Alzheimer’s’ scheduled for October 24, is off to a brisk start. As Nathan Brandon, their new walk chair explains, “we are ahead of the metrics.” 

Spoken like a leader with a deep resume in administration including 13 years in the senior care industry, Brandon was recruited by the Alzheimer’s Association’s Senior Director of Development, Amy Richardson back in February. Having retired three years ago and still involved with the senior community, a fellow colleague, Brandi Hackett invited him to the first meeting. After showing up, he felt immediately compelled to help out. “I like to see all the moving parts of a whole operation and do whatever it takes to make things happen,” says Brandon. “The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is just that opportunity.” 

So far, Brandon’s duties have included following the association’s clearly detailed protocol, monitoring what steps should be taken next and making sure all available resources are being put to good use. In his short time as chair, he’s also recruited more talent to the team including Pam Carnes. Knowing Carnes’ husband’s grandmother had passed away last year from a long struggle with Alzheimer’s, Brandon asked the president/CEO of the Cherokee Chamber of Commerce to co-chair. She said she’d sleep on it and then, gave him a yes the next day. According to Brandon, Carnes’ brings passion, energy, credibility and more contacts willing to join the cause. 

His ease in touting the folks he’s worked with over the years demonstrates his self-described leadership style as one part administrative and one part encouragement. The husband, father and grandfather of six first became aware of the Alzheimer’s Association in 2010 when he was the Director for Cherokee County Senior Services. Responsible for administering Meals on Wheels, homemaker services and case management for Cherokee’s aging, he credits Stacy Trout, the county’s homemaker coordinator for setting up an Alzheimer’s support group at his senior center. 

Nathan Brandon with his six grandchildren, wife, Judy; daughter, Joy far right and son, Stewart on the left.

During that same time, Brandon recalls losing someone he was particularly close to, his mother-in-law, Karrie White to dementia. As a tribute to her, Brandon’s family has put together and named their own ‘Walk’ team, “Harrykarrie” after her and her husband, Harry. To further show his volunteer commitment towards the Alzheimer’s Association, Brandon also formed a team, “Ageless Wonders” for his group of 269 seniors who take a physical fitness class from him three times a week. 

Nathan Brandon leads a physical fitness for mature adults in Cherokee County

“It’s all about serving,” says Brandon. I’m excited about our walk teams and how they are using their own personal skills to serve others for the greater good.” At the Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter, we could not be more grateful to receive the unique talents and commitment of volunteers like Nathan Brandon. 

Shown back row center, Nathan Brandon, chair with the leadership team
of the Cherokee County Walk to End Alzheimer’s

To join the fight against Alzheimer’s like Nathan Brandon and learn more about the Cherokee County Walk to End Alzheimer’s on October 24 at Etowah Park in Canton, please contact Dan Phillips at dphillips@alz.org or visit https://bit.ly/2x2ykVX 

With every talk, Cloud Conrad brings dementia caregivers a silver lining

Volunteer community educator, Cloud Conrad remembers the first talk she gave for the Alzheimer’s Association in May of 2018. Right before she began presenting at a senior care center, a woman with dementia came up and handed her the picture she had been coloring. It was a girl on a bicycle with flowers.

“Since I used to be an endurance cyclist and love to garden, I was really touched by the gesture,” Conrad explains, “The person was inside and her emotions were still there.”

Cloud Conrad, Dementia caregiver trainer and coach with New Street Coaching and volunteer community educator for the Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter

Like a breath of fresh air, the compassionate professional speaker has found a way to give back by sharing what she calls her “gift of gab,” a skill she began honing at summer camp in high school. Raised in Baltimore, Cloud was named after her Irish family’s name, “McCloud” and, more precisely, their Americanized ancestor, Mary Cloud, “That’s what my parents called me until I was three, when I pronounced I was just Cloud.” says Conrad.

Her heart set on a career in advertising, she attended the University of Georgia intending to graduate from the Grady School of Journalism, one of the best in the country. However, once there, she decided that a liberal arts curriculum would serve her best and so, she majored in Speech Communications. Graduating in 1983, she moved from Athens to Atlanta and permanently made the metro area her home. 

Cloud Conrad with her father, Stuart Quarngesser, who was in the first graduating class of the Darden Business School at the University of Virginia and president of Warner Fruehauf (a truck body manufacturing plant.)

Since then, she built a successful career as a marketing VP leading brand strategies, overseeing strategic planning and addressing large audiences during her persuasive, educational and humorous keynote speeches. She was at the peak of her career when her father fell, broke his wrist and eventually had to move into an assisted living. (Conrad later theorized he’d had Early Onset Alzheimer’s for years, but had kept it hidden from his family.) Challenged and feeling hopeless with balancing her role as a caregiver and that as a corporate leader, she vowed to do something to help other caregivers.

Cloud as caregiver and daughter with her father, who passed away from Alzheimer’s in 2017

When her dad passed away from Alzheimer’s in 2017, she took a little time to consider her options, then resigned from her company in January of 2018 to open New Street Coaching as an executive coach. Conrad was working on her coaching certificate when one of her first clients turned out to be the daughter to a parent with dementia.

Sensing she’d found her calling and innately understanding the need to provide support for caregivers having been one herself, Conrad wondered how she could increase her knowledge base to help other caregivers. With no recognized certificate for caregiver training, she looked to the Alzheimer’s Association to further her education.

Today, with more than a year and half of volunteering at the organization under her belt, Cloud views  every address she gives as a way to broaden her expertise in the dementia caregiver training she specializes in at New Street Coaching. “With every talk comes new questions, as individual as a person’s fingerprint,” Conrad says.

Shown left to right, Cloud Conrad and Wakeelah Abdulah, Development Director, Alzheimer’s Association Atlanta at Dancing Stars of Atlanta pep rally

“Being a caregiver is stressful,” she adds. “It’s so rewarding when someone comes up to me and says, Oh gosh. Now I know why my mother does this.” 

So what ideas does she have for providing more education and support to dementia caregivers?

“Anyone who has interest or executives with comfort at the podium should consider being a community educator with the Alzheimer’s Association. There’s such a dire need for understanding and empathy in this area. If I knew in 2014 what I know now, I would have been a better caregiver to my father and improved our quality of life.” 

To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter visit alz.org/georgia

Meet All-Star Volunteer, Teri Schneider

On October 23, 2015, Teri Thomas Schneider lost her mother, Pauline to Lewy Body Dementia. Today, she channels her love for her mom and their shared passion for dancing through her volunteer work as one of our association’s most dynamic volunteers and incoming chair for “Dancing Stars of Atlanta.” 

An AP science teacher at Denmark High School in Forsyth County, Ms. Schneider’s commitment to the Alzheimer’s Association began when she joined on as a “Dancing Star,” herself in 2017. (She also happened to go home with the top prize that year.)

Pro Dancer Matthew Gann with “Dancing Star” Teri Schneider

Her own personal experience with an Alzheimer’s related disease started in the fall of 2012 when her mother’s phone calls from Ohio began to dwindle. After sending her mom a gift and not hearing from her on Mother’s Day, she got a call from her dad telling her that he’d taken her to the hospital. According to her dad, her mom was waking up at 3 a.m. in the morning because she was concerned that her doctor was trying to steal their family’s business. 

Pauline Thomas with her daughter, Teri Thomas Schneider

Fast forward to 2016, one year after her mother’s passing. She was invited to watch her friend, Dr. Kristina Price perform in “Dancing Stars of Atlanta,” the annual fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. 

Having taken tap dance lessons thanks to her mom’s encouragement from the age of three to 21, Teri knew she had to honor her mother’s legacy and be a “Dancing Star” the following year. “I need to do this for my mom and hopefully, I’ll be able to raise some money for this,” said Schneider, a former high school and college cheerleader and Miss Ohio and Miss Indiana finalist. 

Raise some money she did! A teacher and competition cheer coach at Peachtree Ridge High School at the time, Schneider never expected to bring in $59,000. But the many small donations from students, fellow teachers and administrators poured in. A local realtor donated spots at her table which were filled by the senior girls on the competition cheer team, the head coach and his wife who came to support and see “Coach Teri” perform.

Teri Schneider, Judges Choice award winner at 2017 Dancing Stars of Atlanta

That show long past, Schneider continues to support our organization through her infectious energy and enthusiasm. She recently represented the chapter at the 2020 Alzheimer’s Association Leadership Summit in Orlando. “It was such an honor and incredible learning experience to attend this event,” said Schneider. “My eyes were opened to the many lives touched by this terrible disease and all the good work the association is doing to support those diagnosed as well as their caregivers.”

Dan Britt, Senior Director, Development, Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter and Teri Schneider
2020 Alzheimer’s Association Leadership Summit. Shown sitting 2nd from left, Teri Schneider. Middle row, third from left, Linda Davidson, Executive Director, Alzheimers Association Georgia Chapter; 5th from left, Harry Johns, President and CEO, the Alzheimer’s Association

A proven successful fundraiser, she’s an enormous asset to the Alzheimer’s Association Georgia Chapter. We’re incredibly appreciative to have her volunteer as co-chair for “Dancing Stars of Atlanta” when she’s not teaching AP environmental science at Denmark High School and serving as a commissioner for the Georgia PSC. (The organization works with Georgia educator preparation, certification and ethics). 

“I fall more in love with the mission, passion, and compassion of the Alzheimer’s Association every day,” says Schneider.  Her commitment resonates with that of the executive director of the Georgia chapter and the whole team who are supportive and relentless in their quest to educate, serve and look for a cure. “I know that my mom who supported me to achieve all of my dreams and put me into dance at a young age, is dancing in heaven with pride not only at my accomplishments through Dancing Stars, but with everything the Alzheimer’s Association does for those affected by all dementia.”

To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter visit alz.org/georgia