Ingrid Velarde: A Beacon of Compassion in Senior Care and Advocacy

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Ingrid Velarde’s heart has always been devoted to helping others. Her passion for ‘giving back’ is not just something she does; it’s who she is.  As a Program Supervisor at Northern Virginia Family Services (NVFR), she works tirelessly to connect people with resources they need. She jokes that she can’t stop helping others and engages people everywhere she goes. She describes a time years ago, that while waiting at a bus stop, she met a fellow parent and ended up inviting them to her house to help them apply for Medicare benefits.

When Ingrid began her bachelor’s degree program at Strayer University, she was awarded the Fellowship for Justice scholarship, which requires the recipient to volunteer. While working at NVFS, she noticed there were many seniors coming into their food bank who struggled with access to resources they needed, so she decided her volunteer requirement would be satisfied by assisting these older adults.

More senior-centered services are something Ingrid advocates for at NVFS, and the accessibility of these services is of great concern to her. She saw a post that Fellowship Square was seeking technology class volunteers, so she called to inquire how she could help. Through her conversations with the Volunteer Program Manager, Ingrid realized there was also a great opportunity to help educate older adults on Medicaid and Medicare.

Shortly thereafter, Ingrid presented an informational seminar on Medicare enrollment to the residents at Lake Ridge Fellowship House. Enrolling in Medicare and Medicaid can be an overwhelming process, and she strived to make the process as approachable as possible. The Medicare handbook alone is 90 pages long (“who reads 90 pages?” she quips) and can be technical and confusing, but Ingrid’s seminar allowed residents to ask the hard questions.  

After the seminar, Ingrid realized there were still individual concerns that could not be addressed in a group setting. So, with the help of the Service Coordinator on site, a “clinic” was set up where residents could sign up for a time slot and ask Ingrid anything about Medicare. These sessions were so popular that Ingrid spent almost eight hours in one day assisting residents. Because she is bilingual, she was also able to help with Spanish-speaking residents who might find the technical jargon of enrollment to be challenging.

Additionally, with her background in pharmaceuticals, she was able to show residents how to find pharmacies that charge less for their specific medication, as well as how generic versions of medications could help lower prescription costs. Over the course of the day, Ingrid helped more than a dozen residents, but she still wants to do more. She hopes to find more ways to continue to help and educate Lake Ridge residents.

When asked about her time volunteering, Ingrid says that “her heart is so full” and she loved meeting the residents. She says she feels like she and Grace had a great opportunity to learn from one another, and she is excited to continue working at Lake Ridge Fellowship House.

Written By: Kristen Fitzgerald, Program Volunteer Manager

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