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Imagine the encouraging power of a home-cooked meal delivered to the door of an elderly woman who is alone and whose family lives out-of-state. Or imagine the difference it makes when a senior citizen facing cancer has the security and companionship of a friendly face to offer rides to and from chemo treatments.

For the last 40 years, VISTE––locally known as Volunteers in Service to the Elderly––has stood in the gap to meet the great needs of our senior citizen community for residents 70 years and older.

Led by an incredible team of local volunteers, they have exceeded their mission “to enable elderly persons to remain safely and independently in their own homes.” Since 1983, this community-based non-profit has provided quality care services for elderly residents and their caregivers in the Polk County area.

VISTE Board Chair Troy Garica (left) alongside VISTE President Steve Bissonnette (right).

President Steve Bissonnette said the organization’s longevity proves the power of a community that has consistently rallied behind it to support such an essential cause. 

“Our organization started as a grassroots initiative when the Director of Catholic Charities, Ed Kren, and 14 men stepped forward to provide transportation to the elderly in our community–serving around 30-35 seniors to take them to doctor’s appointments and grocery store shopping,” Bissonnette shares.

From as young as 70 years to their eldest who just turned 107 years old living in her own home, the company is actively reaching seniors from all walks of life to provide a sense of consistent support to keep them at home so they do not have to be in institutional care.

This one-of-a-kind organization is founded and solely operating out of our beautiful Swan City. 

Currently serving over 4,000 seniors, they now offer additional life-changing support, apart from transportation, including supplemental grocery boxes, hot meals and contracted at-home based care for families needing professional assistance––all at no charge

Within their supplemental grocery program, they offer packages filled with dried goods, paper products, non perishable food items, bags of bread products, frozen meat products and more.

Through community fundraising and strategic partnerships with local food banks, churches and other nonprofits, VISTE has empowered many at-risk senior citizens with holistic programs so they can continue living in the comfort of their home.

To provide the utmost care, they continue to strategize ways to assist their clients through tools essential for crisis situations. They offer panic buttons for residents to ensure they receive help in the event of a fall or physical mishap––again free of charge because of the generous support of the Lakeland community.

“This 40th anniversary is not only significant for us but for our whole community,” Bissonnette said. “We are only here because this community cares enough to engage and to care for seniors that need a safety net.”

When it comes to the incredible work they’ve been able to accomplish, Bissonnette affirms “it speaks volumes of our community” as they are what help make VISTE possible.

As a volunteer-driven organization, VISTE is always looking for people like you to step up and get involved. More than ever, this is the time to reach out to encourage and support the seniors in our community through all the transformative efforts VISTE provides. If you are ready to make a difference, sign up now to volunteer at viste.org. Their team will contact you to get you started once your application has been submitted for review.

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