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Readers' Choice: Friends for Life gives support to elderly, disabled

Readers' Choice: Friends for Life gives support to elderly, disabled

From the H.O.T. Readers' Choice Awards 2021 series
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Providing support for the elderly and those with disabilities is at the heart of Friends for Life.

“Friends for Life was founded in Waco in 1989 in response to a cry for help from a 90-year-old who was alone and afraid,” said Inez Russell, founder and executive director of the nonprofit.

“Putting together a support system for people like her has grown over the years into an organization that has served thousands of elderly and people with disabilities through guardianship, money management services, independent living programs, life skills training and programs that improve quality of life.”

She said Friends for Life several years ago adopted three core values: compassionate service, professional teamwork and integrity.

“Our commitment to those three values is woven through everything we do and now plays a huge role in our selection of staff and board members,” Russell said. “It is part of everything we do and creates an amazing work environment where people encourage and support one another, pray for each other and work as a team to help people in need.”

Finding the funding needed to operate the nonprofit is always a challenge, she said.

“The services we provide are the ones no one else provides,” Russell said. “We are filling in the gaps of service for the elderly and people with disabilities. Gaps in service occur when there is no funding. We have been challenged for 32 years to raise the money we need and find the necessary funding.

“It is hard to say ‘no’ when there is no place to send hurting people who need help so we will keep looking for funding to help us help the most vulnerable people live the best life possible.”

Friends for Life has 83 employees and some positions are open as the need for this work continues to grow, she added.

Some employees, like legal assistant Micki Bowman and Kathy Hodgens, a cook in the adult day care center, have been there more than 20 years.

Russell said the nonprofit has an amazing leadership team of Chris Cobb, chief operating officer; Carla Hines, chief financial officer; Marvin Roach, guardianship attorney; and directors Clifford Walker and Beverly Heaton (guardianship); Carla Sessions (adult day care); Donna Baugh (life skills); April Love (independent living/quality of life); and Easton Preston (Lifelines).

“God makes this work special. It all belongs to Him,” she said. “We ask God to show us who needs help and give us the wisdom and resources to help them. I knelt beside an elderly widow in her wheelchair who told me, ‘I prayed God would send someone to help me and I know He sent you.’

“An employee once told me, ‘I’ve always tried to follow God in everything I do, but here I have to run to keep up with Him!’” 

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