Furthering the cause

The overall vision of the Alzheimer’s Association is a heady one, indeed: a world without the disease.

To that end, association chapters throughout the United States spearhead fundraising efforts for research and work to provide support for the more than 5 million Americans who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Shawna Weinzetl, newly-hired program and event coordinator for the association’s Greater Iowa chapter, has seen first hand the effects of the disease.

For several years, Weinzetl, a Fort Dodge native, worked at Friendship Haven in Fort Dodge.

That includes five years as a resident companion, during which time Weinzetl worked with people with dementia.

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” she said.

Eventually, Weinzetl left Friendship Haven to work as a laboratory technician at Boone County Hospital.

But this first-hand look at how the lives of Alzheimer’s patients – and their families – can be positively affected stuck with Weinzetl, she said.

As such, a recent opportunity to join the Alzheimer’s Association and help further its mission was too good to pass up.

Now one month into the position, Weinzetl said she is working to build on the work of her chapter, which serves 63 counties in both Iowa and Illinois.

Splitting her time between offices in Fort Dodge and Mason City, Weinzetl organizes local fundraising efforts.

Among the associations premier events is the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which will be held Sept. 27.

The effort will require volunteer effort, said Weinzetl, who is seeking people to help with set-up and tear-down, among other things.

Typically, the association seeks an 80-20 split in fundraising, Weinzetl said, with 80 percent coming from walk teams and 20 percent coming from corporate sponsorship.

Weinzetl said she’s working to make herself and the association known among local businesses.

Visibility in the community is key, she said.

“I want people to know that I’m here and to know they can drop into my office,” she said.

In addition to providing funding for research efforts, the Alzheimer’s Association operates a 24/7 Helpline, with staff constantly on hand to answer questions about Alzheimer’s symptoms, treatment and care options available. Helpline staff can also serve as a friendly listening post for emotional support.

“We want people to know what services are available,” Weinzetl said.

An open house to welcome Weinzetl will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday at her office, which is located at 822 Central Ave., Suite 310.