To Addie Kirby, it wasn’t the awe-inspiring anecdote others bring to their role as a volunteer at the Alzheimer’s Association. No. It was a simple Facebook post.
“I wish I could make up some story, but it was a quote on Facebook about the recipe to a happy life,” Kirby said.
Late in 2019, she paused her social media scrolling, intrigued by the three ‘ingredients’ on her screen: find a hobby that keeps you healthy, a hobby that will make you money and a hobby for something you’re passionate about.
“That quote…it just really got to me. That sounds like a pretty good recipe,” she said.
So, the Charlotte-area high school teacher pursued an active lifestyle, found joy in a real estate side hustle – and as for the third hobby? For that, she looked to the past, not the future.
This English teacher and volleyball coach wasn’t always wrangling teens into reading historic literature or teaching bump, set, spike. For five years, Addie Kirby was a Certified Nursing Assistant working in a memory care unit in Statesville.
“You just fall in love with the people,” she said of her days at the senior living community. “My love for seniors, I guess it was always there, but it grew.”
What’s more, Kirby experienced her own great-grandmother’s dementia diagnosis and the profound affect it had on her family.
“It’s one thing to clock in and be your best self as a CNA, but when it’s your family, there’s not a clock in-clock out,” she said. “It was really hard.”
Kirby had every intention to continue in memory care, but as life does, her path changed. She went to college and graduated with a degree in public health. Then teaching fell into her lap.
Now, searching for this hobby of passion, it made sense to get involved in memory care related volunteering – and it just so happened she often drives by the Alzheimer’s Association’s local office in Charlotte.
“As a teacher, education comes easy. Connections with people comes easy,” she explained, which is why she immediately knew she wanted to be a volunteer Community Educator with the Alzheimer’s Association. Community Educators deliver education programs developed by the Alzheimer’s Association on topics related to Alzheimer’s disease and all other dementia.
You might say it was the perfect recipe.
Kirby said even as a CNA, she wasn’t prepared for what it would be like to have a family member with dementia. As a volunteer, she hopes to bridge the gap between family, friends and the community about what these diseases are, how to support caregivers or cope as one and ways to best communicate with your diagnosed loved one.
Even being a teacher, Kirby recalled being incredibly nervous for her first presentation in 2020.
After she wrapped up, the moderator opened the floor for questions and discussions. The attendees — strangers to each other — started sharing stories and offering advice to one another. Suddenly, Kirby shifted from anxious about her performance to amazed at the resiliency, kindness and communal nature of the people on the screen in front of her.
It’s hard to impress too-cool teenagers and keep their attention, especially in this pandemic virtual world. But here the audience genuinely wanted to hear what Kirby had to share.
“They just sound like heroes… the caregivers,” she said.
It hit her in that moment: this is about so much more than educating others. She refers to her volunteer work with the Alzheimer’s Association as an extension of her life.
Really, we’re all a bit like Addie Kirby, searching for that special list of ‘ingredients’ to make life sweeter. As she discovered, though, there was already a perfect recipe right under her nose.
“It gives me joy in my heart to volunteer and to be a Community Educator with the Alzheimer’s Association,” she said. “It just makes me happy.”
INTERESTED IN BRINGING YOUR COMMUNITY TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY EDUCATOR?
Alzheimer’s Association Community Educators are trained by the Association as volunteer public speakers who provide Alzheimer’s Association education programs to community audiences. Community Educators:
- Deliver approximately 12 presentations annually using prepared Alzheimer’s Association evidence-based consumer education programs on a variety of care and support topics. (currently all programs are being delivered virtually
- Collaborate with local Association staff to expand programs by securing community partners, scheduling presentations, delivering the programs, and managing needed materials.
- Serve as presenter for chapter-scheduled education programs and conferences.
- Connect people with additional Association services and volunteer opportunities by proactively making referrals to Alzheimer’s Association programs & free 24/7 Helpline.
Find out more and contact your local chapter staff here: PROGRAM VOLUNTEER COMMUNITY
Madeline is a former TV news reporter & anchor who got involved with the Alzheimer’s Association in Oct. 2020. She volunteers her nearly decade-long experience as a journalist to honor her grandfather, who has vascular dementia.