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High Country Caregiver Foundation Recognized At National Conference

Representing High Country Caregiver Foundation in Teaneck New Jersey in late October was, from left: HCCGF Board Member, Jacob Willis, High Country RAPP Coordinator, Sherrie Norris, HCCGF Executive Director Brenda Reece and Ashe County RAPP leader, Angie Ritter.

The Boone-based High Country Caregiver Foundation, and specifically its Relatives as Parents Program, was recognized as one of six finalists for the coveted 2018 Janet Sainer RAPP Award during the annual RAPP National Orientation and Training Conference on October 25-27, held at the Glenpointe Marriott Hotel in Teaneck, New Jersey, just outside of New York City.

Sponsored by The Brookdale Foundation Group, the RAPP conference is the only national conference focusing exclusively on the issues faced by grandparents and other relatives who are primary caregivers of children.

The Janet Sainer RAPP Award seeks to recognize the creativity, enthusiasm, dedication and commitment of Relatives As Parents Programs by honoring a RAPP that has achieved excellence in the delivery of supportive services to relative caregiver families.

The New York City Department for the Aging/ Grandparent Resource Center, won this year’s award, with finalists, in addition to High Country Caregiver Foundation, including HALOS, (SC), HopeSparks, (Washington), Manatee Children’s Services, (Fla.) and the Muscatine Community YMCA, (Iowa).“We were up against some tough competition from larger cities that serve hundreds of participants, and while we did not win the award, it was certainly an honor to have been chosen as a finalist. ” said RAPP Coordinator, Sherrie Norris. “To be introduced as one of the top RAPP groups in the country, to see our participants in pictures on the big screen during our introduction and power point presentation — which was viewed by around 200 people from coast to coast — was thrilling, in itself. To know we are making a difference is a win-win for all of us.”

Brenda Reece, Executive Director of High Country Caregiver Foundation, has seen her program make it to the final countdown for the award before. “We are delighted that the folks at the Brookdale Foundation continue to recognize our efforts and support us in our endeavors,” said Reece. “RAPP is growing exponentially across the country, and to be able to have even a little impact on our families in these situations —and to think we are helping them carry their heavy load — makes our work truly worthwhile.”

Reece was among the return presenters at the conference, with Norris asked to join her in presenting a tip-sheet for participants on what it takes to have a successful RAPP program.

Jacob Willis, HCCGF board member, participated in sessions primarily related to the senior population and early memory loss, in preparation for facilitating a related upcoming program called “Play Me A Memory.” With a start-up grant from the Brookdale Foundation, the weekly sessions will serve area residents who are dealing with cognitive and memory impairment. Structured activities will emphasize socialization, memory exercises, physical activity and cognitive stimulation for its participants.

Angie Ritter, a social worker with Ashe County Department of Social Services, is leading a relatively new RAPP group in Jefferson, and enjoyed learning from and interacting with other RAPP leaders at the conference.

This year’s conference topics focused on a number of issues the High Country group and its peers face on a daily basis, including funding/fundraising, self-care, legal status issues and discipline.

Also included in the conference were workshop sessions on topics that will help each organization serve the relative caregiver families their organization supports. Those were the opioid crisis, the trauma that has and can result from school violence, planning for permanency when caregivers are no longer able to care for children, workshops on bullying and cyberbullying, caregiver forums and more.

The conference also offered participants the opportunity to catch up and network with their peers from all across the United States.

The Relatives As Parents Program was started in 1996 and is designed to encourage and promote the creation and expansion of supportive services to grandparents and other relatives who have taken on the responsibility of surrogate parenting due to the absence of the parents.

High Country RAPP, which extends from Mitchell to Wilkes counties, currently includes 70 children representing 35 families, headed up by grandparents, aunts and uncles.

For more information, visit www.hccgf.org.