The Friendly Club has evolved from a social gathering to a mission-driven volunteer organization created by residents living with dementia.

Elder Care Alliance has implemented the Hearthstone Institute’s I’m Still Here™ approach to programming in its memory care neighborhoods, a philosophy that aims to provide person-directed care to residents with memory loss. Implementation of this philosophy has had a profound effect on Elder Care Alliance communities, especially among residents looking to connect socially.

The Friendly Club started at AlmaVia of San Francisco when a small group of memory care residents began to meet regularly. They recognized those who attended regularly as well as noticed when residents were missing. Eventually their informal gatherings transformed into official club meetings, establishing a Club Charter and electing a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer.

Raising funds became one of their first objectives, so they pulled out their family recipes and began baking. A key principle of the I’m Still Here™ approach is to provide purposeful and meaningful social roles. Each Friendly Club member had something to contribute — whether by providing and reading the recipe, actively baking, selling the items or attracting customers.

Funds in hand, the Friendly Club decided it needed a charitable purpose and began looking for community volunteer opportunities. One of their first projects was baking dog biscuits and sewing dog blankets for the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which visits the neighborhood community on a periodic basis. The members also began making baby blankets for the neonatal unit at a local hospital, some members learning to sew for the first time.

Since its humble beginnings, the Friendly Club has grown to fulfill a charitable mission, and through their work they are engaging hearts and transforming lives.