'Respite Day' program's director is making a difference

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Something remarkable is taking place at a Montgomery church. What started as a class of two several months ago has now become a group of 14, and they come from all walks of life.

There's Eugene, Marilyn, Ed and Jack. Strangers before, friends today. They are all connected by a common thread. The participants either have some form of dementia, or in Ed's case: Parkinson's.

"I am able to move better," said Ed Hellum.

Move better and communicate better because of what Daphne Johnston is doing along with 35 trained volunteers.

"We meet them where they are," said Johnston.

This is the 'Respite Day' program at The First United Methodist Church in Cloverdale and Johnston is the program director. The goal is to give caregivers a break, a much needed break at home.

"They constantly to have watch them everyday, 24/7,' said Johnston.

On this day participants play the bean bag toss, therapy that stimulates the mind.

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's, Johnston and her volunteers do their best to make the journey for the participants less confusing. That includes bringing smiles to their faces and spreading the love of God.

Another game they play is beating a big red ball with foam sticks while naming a state.

"Mississippi!,' shouts Johnston.

"Idaho!," screams another.

It's child's play at first glance but dig a little deeper and you'll hear stories of change. Jack, for instance, couldn't walk a year ago. Now he can with a little help, a change for the better for Jack and a change within among the volunteers.

"This just makes me feel more useful," says volunteer Pat Chambless.

Two days a week Daphne Johnston and her volunteers make a difference by doing what they need to do bring the life the participants used to know a little closer to home.

Scientists say Alzheimer's typically affects people after 60.

If you want to learn more about the Respite Day program contact Daphne Johnston at 334-440-9911.

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