After 10 years, YMCA's Outreach Program for Ahwatukee Seniors, or Y OPAS, is still going strong and providing much-needed services for Ahwatukee Foothills seniors.

The program started at Mountain View Lutheran Church. At the time the church simply noticed a need and gathered volunteers to fill it, said Judy Lewisohn, program manager for Y OPAS.

Five years later, the group decided to search for a new way to provide services. At that time they became a program of the Ahwatukee Foothills Family YMCA.

The group now consists of two part-time employees of the YMCA and about 125 volunteers serving close to 300 senior citizens around Ahwatukee with transportation, shopping and errands, caregiver relief, visits and small household chores.

"The community is aging so we've seen more folks needing some kind of help," Lewisohn said. "The recent economy has hit a lot of people hard. Financially it has become more difficult for them to get a lot of services they were able to get in the past.

"They're having to look a little more carefully. I think for us, we've just doubled the amount of assignments and things that we do for seniors. We've seen a huge growth in our program."

The growth in the program means a growth in volunteers as well, but the group could always use more.

"This year has been busy," Lewisohn said. "We've been asking the volunteers that we have to do a lot more for us.

"Why people like volunteering for us is they can do it whenever they're available. We have some volunteers who do something for us once every three months. We have other volunteers who do things three times a week. It really is up to the volunteer how much they want to be involved."

This week Y OPAS celebrated its volunteers with a luncheon at Mountain View Lutheran Church. At the May 12 luncheon Kate Bibber and Jean Butterfield were awarded the Linda Hoppe Above and Beyond Award.

Hoppe was one of the founders of Y OPAS. She was someone who went above and beyond to get the program off the ground. The annual award is given to someone who is consistently counted on to say yes to a volunteer assignment.

"It's presented to someone who the organization thinks has just done way more than is normally expected of a volunteer," Lewisohn said.

"Linda Hoppe was one of the founders. She was hugely involved in the beginning. When she passed we just felt like we lost a very important part of Y OPAS, so this is our way to remember that."

For more information about volunteering for Y OPAS, contact the office at (602) 212-6088.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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