When Lynn Templeton taught special education, she once helped a group of students earn their driver’s licenses by recording the entire driver education manual on cassette for the ones who couldn’t read.
Two of them passed the test, and a few years ago, Templeton ran into one of them in Durham. He was driving a bus.
“They couldn’t read a manual but I was sure they could drive,” she says. “It felt great to be able to help someone be as independent as possible.”
Now director of the Center for Volunteer Caregiving, Templeton continues to help people remain independent despite challenges. The nonprofit provides transportation and other services to elderly and disabled people in Wake County, as well as their caregivers.
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Volunteers provide transportation to doctor’s appointments, the grocery store and other basic needs. Others do light housework or yard work, or help care for elderly or disabled clients so that the family members who care for them can have a much-needed break.
The center is celebrating its 25th anniversary next week, and its work has never been more relevant. People over 65 made up 15 percent of North Carolina’s population in 2013 and are expected to account for 1 in every 5 residents by 2035, according to census estimates.
In Wake, the over-65 population is estimated at 70,000 and expected to exceed 200,000 by 2030 – the highest growth rate of any North Carolina county.
Templeton has doubled the center’s budget in her 12 years as director, helping to meet the demands of a growing elderly population by pursuing grants, training volunteers and rallying the community.
“We try to help seniors and adults with disabilities to live as healthy and safely as possible in their own homes,” she says. “Our mission is even more relevant now than 25 years ago.”
Charles Crutchfield joined the center’s board through his church, First United Methodist of Cary, which was one of a dozen churches that founded the center in 1992. He says Templeton has been effective at finding grants and donors that share the organization’s goals.
“If you haven’t dealt with an elderly parent, you’re going to, or you may be one,” says Crutchfield, who is chair of the center’s board. “It’s driven by a lot of emotion, and Lynn has done a tremendous job of engaging that spirit and that feeling.”
Volunteering at an early age
Templeton grew up in Whitakers, a small town near Rocky Mount. Her father died when she was a young child, and she says she learned from the example of her mother, who worked to raise her children and after retiring, went on to become the town’s mayor.
When Templeton was still in high school, she volunteered to help with special education students, at times even serving as as substitute teacher when a teacher was sick.
“I was a good student so they would let me leave class to help,” she says. “It was joyful and it was great to be able to help.”
She earned her undergraduate degree at UNC-Chapel Hill, and worked for years as a special education teacher in North Carolina and Charlotteseville. She took a break to raise her three children and spent a good amount of time earning certifications in topics such as program management.
“It was just a desire to balance the need to use your brain and the desire to be with your kids,” she says.
Those certifications helped her in her nonprofit career. She started with ARC of Durham County, and later worked for the United Way, where she says she learned a lot about the nonprofit world. She would go on to head the Council for Senior Citizens before taking over at the Center for Volunteer Caregiving.
“I learned a lot about the importance of trying to operate a small nonprofit like it is a business,” she says. “There’s a true balance between the passion for what you do and making sure you’re crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s.”
Her mother passed away recently at the age of 95, cared for at home by Templeton’s two sisters – a luxury many don’t have in an era where children often live far away from their aging parents.
“You’d be astounded at the people who have none of that,” she says. “They don’t have anybody to turn to for help, and your doctors appointments start to multiply.”
Making an impact
The center began with a group of churches in Raleigh and Cary with help from a national grant aimed at using trained church volunteers to assist older and disabled residents through transportation and caregiving.
When she joined, her goal was one that is easily underappreciated: building the group’s infrastructure. She helped the center become a United Way agency, following its recommendations for governance, such as keeping cash reserves and building a strong board.
These changes helped the group bring in more grant support, including recent grants from the Triangle Community Foundation. Last week, the group was awarded a $25,000 grant through Searstone. The center won a 2013 GSK Impact Award, a moment she calls a milestone.
Over time, the center has added to its core services by helping caregivers in others ways, including offering them a training program. This fall, the center opened a group respite program with paid staff and now offers regular transportation to area hospitals.
A grant from GlaxoSmithKline has allowed the center to create a new system for online volunteer management that Templeton says will help expand its reach further.
Now, about a third of the center’s more than 600 volunteers found it online through services such as Activate Good and Volunteer Match.
“I’m actually kind of thrilled by that,” she says. “People are researching and looking to a place to volunteer and finding us.”
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Born: November 1948, Rocky Mount
Career: Director, Center for Volunteer Caregiving
Education: B.A., UNC-Chapel Hill, and M.A., University of Virginia, both in special education
Family: Children Carey, Mark and Lauren
Want to help?
The center is holding its Red Carpet Rendezvous, a fundraiser and celebration of its 25th anniversary, at 6:30 p.m. on April 28 at N.C. State University Club, Raleigh. It is also seeking volunteers, particularly for rural areas of the county. Find out more at https://volunteercaregiving.org/.