By Bonnie Davidson
The Courier 

Marlene Yoss: 16,000 Hours Of Volunteering

County Hero Honored For Helping At-Risk Seniors


Bonnie Davidson / The Courier

Marlene Yoss is congratulated by Brian Steffen, CEO of Action for Eastern Montana, during the grand luncheon in her honor.

Humble and uncomfortable with extra attention, it's only a few words that friends and families described of one local volunteer. Words about being friendly, helpful and part of the family were heard on Monday at the Cottonwood.

Marlene Yoss was honored at a luncheon, where county commissioners, clients, program directors and representatives from Sen. John Tester came to recognize the hard work of one woman. Yoss was noticed after 14 years of work as a senior companion, taking part from the beginning of the program in 2000.

Karen O'Dell, who oversees the program, explained that Yoss, of Nashua, has been one of around 55 volunteers who have stepped up to help at risk seniors stay living at home and independently. The senior companions help with simple tasks, like grocery shopping, or getting them senior meals and attending community events.

Currently there are seven companions in Valley County, but none have put in the years or hours Yoss has. Her hours total to more than 16,000 over the span of her service.

"She does an excellent job and she's very special," O'Dell said.

Yoss, who wasn't expecting the crowd that gathered, was shocked and tearful as she was recognized. She explained that she began the program when she saw the position was open and put an application in. She had been struggling from the death of her husband for three years and thought that helping others might help her. She was accepted for the position and she said that the position kept her going and helped her as much as the clients she helped.

"It's felt good knowing that at the end of the day I've helped others," Yoss said.

Brian Steffen, CEO of Action for Eastern Montana, explained that the program is run on one of 35 grants and that the program has been a huge success. He said that keeping seniors independent is financially beneficial and it benefits by giving the volunteers and clients a purpose and drive.

Steffen also explained that the return of cost to taxpayers is $13 for every dollar spent. The cost of the program is $5,600 annually, while seniors can pay up to $75,000 for nursing homes. Many of those seniors are unable to afford it, so taxpayers cover the costs through Medicaid and other tax programs. The funding for the program is applied for each year, and the grant is given to help cover a small stipend that volunteers receive to help pay for gas and other costs involved.

During the luncheon, letters from Senator Tester and Senator Jon Walsh were read with congratulations on her achievement and the success of the program.

O'Dell said at the event that Yoss deserved the honor for her hard work. Clients, friends and family commented that Yoss had a way of making everyone feel like family, which made her work special.


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