About Senior Companions
Learn more about this community service
History of the Program
In 1968, Congress became interested in creating a program that offers services by and for older persons. Five years later, the Senior Companion Program was established with the Domestic Volunteer Service Act. The first 18 Senior Companion Programs started receiving funding in August 1974.
The Senior Companion Program has since expanded throughout the United States.
While authorized and funded by Congress, the program is managed by the AmeriCorps, which monitors and advises local projects.
In September 1978, The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society received a grant to start the Senior Companion Program in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It was one of five demonstration sites that tested placing Senior Companions in the homes of seniors. The home-based program used a written service plan to define client needs and Companion tasks. Up to then, Senior Companions visited clients in institutions, not in their own homes.
The first four Senior Companions in South Dakota were trained in January 1979. The Senior Companion Program of South Dakota started in Sioux Falls and gradually expanded to communities in the surrounding area. In 1984, the program received federal grant funding to start the program in Brookings and Lake Counties. Ten years later, the program began in the Watertown area thanks to a grant from South Dakota Adult Services and Aging. Services expanded to Yankton in 1995.
The program continued to grow throughout the state. In 1998, the Senior Companions Program started in Rapid City when the program received additional federal dollars. The next year, the program grew to offer services in Meade, Lawrence and Butte counties and to the Custer area in 2000.
Thanks to a grant from the AmeriCorps, the program started in Aberdeen and Redfield in 2001. Groton and Hot Springs were added as service areas in 2002.
In the fall of 2008, services began in Milbank. Services were added to Miller, Wagner and Lake Andes in 2009.
In 2018, services were added in Pierre.
South Dakota communities we serve
Senior Companion services are currently available in these communities:
- Belle Fourche
- Black Hawk
- Box Elder
- Central City
- Dell Rapids
- Hot Springs
- Rapid City
- Sioux Falls
Our funding sources
- City and county governments
- Area United Ways organizations, including Aberdeen, Black Hills, Brookings, Watertown and Yankton.
- Private contributions
- Annual benefit concert and raffle
- Walter C. Schulz Foundation
The Senior Companion Program of South Dakota is sponsored by The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society. As a sponsor, they are legally responsible for the administration of the program, providing office space, supervision and support to the staff.
The Advisory Council is a formal organization that advises and assists the sponsor and staff of the Senior Companion Program. Its members include community and business leaders, representatives from Volunteer Stations, public and private agencies, health care specialists, aging and human services, Senior Companions and public officials.
Our current Advisory Council members are:
Eastern South Dakota Council
- Barb Wetrosky, Chair
- Elizabeth Hindbjorgen, Vice Chair
- Deb Gross
- Kathi Herreid
- Connie Lake
- Deb Overseth
- Jessica Rehder
- Traci Saugstad
- Geraldine Schnabel
- Susan Schrader
- Chellee Unruh
Western South Dakota Council
- Sara Angelo
- Laura Dyer
- Larry Kaiser
- Sara Nelson
- Lenis Pato
- Sara Ratzch