The 6:8 non-profit organization is known for fundraising for food that travels the globe, planning the Fire on the River celebration and mission trips to help build houses for the poor.
Now a new program under the 6:8 umbrella reaches out to the elderly in the Sauk Prairie community, called “Honoring our Elders.”
The program is headed by Shirley Kelter, a chaplain whose life’s work focuses on spiritual support for older citizens who may be home bound or in area care facilities.
Kelter said her work helps to complement and collaborate with the support given by area pastors to help reach out to senior citizens that might appreciate the extra time spent with them.
“It’s not about running errands or doing things, but offering companionship and support by listening to their life stories,” Kelter said. “I’d like to see us celebrate the treasure that the elderly folks are in our community. That’s the thrust behind getting this started.”
Kelter’s experience working with the elderly includes her work as a chaplain with Agrace Hospice in Madison and end-of-life issues.
But she said her work is more about the life journey than it is about a person’s particular religious beliefs.
“As a chaplain, my training is to work with all sorts of people,” Kelter said. “Even those who say they are not religious can benefit from spiritual support. A lot of what I do is just listening and affirming things in their lives. If you catch someone with anger or grudges, it’s to help bring healing and finding some peace.”
6:8 co-director John Ramthun said the organization added the program because they saw a need for helping the elderly members of the community.
“There was a gap in our ministry for the elderly,” Ramthun said. “We do such a good job in this community celebrating youth and the arts, but we wanted to also celebrate the elderly and the wisdom they have. We’ve spent a lot of time reaching out to the kids and families, but not really to the elderly. We fell in love with the idea of being of service to the elderly and celebrating them and honoring them.”
Kelter said the program includes visiting seniors who may be experiencing dementia or other memory loss conditions.
“Someone’s spirit always recognizes caring and kindness and love,” Kelter said. “To go see someone’s mother with advanced dementia and who doesn’t recognize their daughter, they will still recognize love. That may be the most important thing to them in their day.”
Kelter’s mission is not only to help those in the aging process, but to lend support to their family members at the same time in end-of-life matters.
She has two programs planned in March for both the elderly and their family members at St. John Lutheran Church.
The first is “Aging in God’s Grace,” on March 12, a retreat for people in their 70s, 80s, 90s, and even the 100s.
“It’s for those on the pilgrimage of life where aging can bring a host of challenges and loss, but also gifts and invitations from God, family, and community if we recognize them and open our hearts to receive them,” Kelter said.
The second retreat is on March 14 called “Replenishing Our Spirits: Adult Children Caregivers of Elderly Parents.”
“It’s a program for adult children who are offering care or support to their elderly parents or grandparents,” Kelter said. “Sometimes all you need to do is listen to that life story and ask what are you proud of and what marked you with joy or sorrow? Where did you find strength and courage? We can all learn from that.”
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