Grace Place and director Bill Strandlund honored in Touchstone Energy 2019 #WhoPowersYou Contest 

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Bill Strandlund (Courtesy of Bill Strandlund/Facebook)

CULLMAN, Ala. – This week, Bill Strandlund, director of Grace Episcopal Church’s Grace Place ministry to victims of memory loss, placed fourth in the nationwide 2019 #WhoPowersYou Contest sponsored by Touchstone Energy Cooperative, Inc. and open to members of Touchstone’s network of local cooperatives. He was among more than 200 nominees from across the country; the winners included entries from Missouri, Texas and North Carolina.

“We offer our sincere appreciation, gratitude and congratulations to Bill for this well-deserved recognition,” said Tim Culpepper, CEO of Cullman Electric Cooperative. “We are very proud of Bill, and all the wonderful volunteers of Grace Place. We are grateful for everything they do to serve our local community.”

Grace Place volunteers hold twice weekly sessions focused on verbal and physical activities to those suffering from dementia. The sessions also include a hot lunch and give caregivers a much-needed break from their responsibilities. Strandlund also hosts a monthly caregivers’ meeting as a forum for group discussions on a range of caregiver topics focused on identifying support resources available to them.

By providing the only program of its type in the county and one of only two in north Alabama, Strandlund and Grace Place made a tangible difference and are having significant impact on the Cullman community.

“We congratulate the commitment and generosity of Mr. Strandlund and these inspiring contest winners, along with all the 2019 nominees,” said Jeffrey Connor, Touchstone Energy interim executive director. “They tirelessly demonstrate what it means to have a servant’s heart, and we are honored to recognize them for their dedication to our core cooperative value of commitment to community.”

Strandlund and the Grace Place volunteers received nominations from three co-op members, all stating Strandlund was a driving force behind the organization advocating for those with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s/dementia and their caregivers:

Mary Yates

“This nomination is for Bill Strandlund and all the many volunteers at Grace Place. Not every community is blessed to have a caring organization as this. Considering our aging population and rise in Alzheimer’s/dementia patients this is a much-needed service for both. Bill Strandlund is the executive director of Grace Place. He, along with many others, is the driving force behind this organization that advocates and provides respite care for community members who have mild to moderate Alzheimer’s/dementia and their caregivers. Twice a week many volunteers and clients meet to talk, laugh, exercise, work in crafts, sing, play games, eat lunch, etc. Friendships are developed and much needed stimulation is provided in a safe, caring, loving environment while providing caregivers a ‘break.’ Through Bill’s efforts volunteers range from individuals, various church groups, local musicians, pet therapy (including dogs and horses), local eateries and more. A caregivers’ meeting is held once a month that provides group discussions related to various issues, speakers, and resources available. This provides much needed uplifting encouragement. Bill and the volunteers work tirelessly within the community to bring awareness thought civic organizations, businesses, and churches. They reach wide and deep within our community for participation. Without a doubt, Bill and Grace Place have impacted all facets of our community involving and providing for a vast array of people.

Joan Hammett

“We have a number of volunteers who unselfishly donate their time to provide love and care for those who are challenged by memory loss. Twice a week, these caring people offer participants and caregivers four-hour sessions twice a week. Participants have exercise, games, crafts, music, social networking and other activities to keep them involved and engaged. It gives caregivers a chance to breathe, run errands, do paperwork, read, etc. When we arrive and notice the volunteers and participants arriving, my husband exclaims, ‘Those are my people.’”

Grady Smith

“When the disease of dementia enters a family situation, the effects can be devastating. Memory loss can be a frightening and confusing occurrence and its onset is completely unpredictable. It can strike anyone at any time and at any age. Even doctors who diagnose this illness will express uncertainty about that loved one’s future and they don’t have all the answers. The patient certainly is significantly affected but so is the caregiver. Life changes dramatically, to say the least. It is possible that the outcome for the primary caregiver becomes a 24/7/365 job that displaces much if not all of their time. It can become overwhelming and they potentially feel lost because they simply don’t know what to do, even if there is the luxury of help from other family members or friends. They are faced with the possibility of the patient watching TV all day long or sitting on the back porch looking at the yard. Presently, there is no known definitive cause for dementia and there are many forms with Alzheimer’s being the most common. There aren’t any medications currently available that either successfully arrest or reverse the disease and some forms of the disease are eventually fatal. In 2018, the National Alzheimer’s Association said 1 in 9 people, 65 years of age or older, would develop some form of dementia AND 1 in 3 people, 85 years of age or older would, as well. There are about 83,000 people in Cullman County Alabama today. 18.3% of those people are 65 or older. Using information from the U.S. Census Bureau, that would mean that, right now, there are approximately 2,000 patients in our county that would be diagnosed with dementia. And by 2050 that total will exceed 4,900 patients.

“Bill Strandlund is the Executive Director of Grace Place Cullman. Grace Place is a respite program for memory loss patients AND their caregivers. Bill is there to inform and express a message of hope. A message of compassion. A message of understanding. Grace Place provides respite. For the patient AND the caregiver. Grace Place provides verbal stimulation, physical exercise, word games, art projects, musical stimulation, conversational stimulation, and face-to-face interaction during the entire session. A hot lunch is also provided. These ‘participants’ are placed in our care by their caregivers. When that happens, the respite for the caregiver begins. The caregiver can have several hours of time on their own and we have been told many times by those same caregivers that ONLY four or eight hours a week on those days can seem like a ‘vacation.’ No one wanting to take part in this program will ever be turned away as long as certain criteria are met. So, as you can see, it is a service to the community but also a ministry. Bill and Grace Place have made a tangible difference to the Cullman community by providing the only program of its type in the county AND one of only two in north Alabama. Hope and change are present in Cullman County because of Grace Place.”

Learn more about Grace Place at www.facebook.com/305ArnoldStreetNE or call 256-736-4260.

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com