Senior Helpers, a company that supplies in-home caregivers for elders, recently invited members of the DeLand Area Chamber of Commerce to help celebrate its sixth anniversary in DeLand with a ribbon-cutting of its new offices.

After six years on South Woodland Boulevard, Senior Helpers is now located at 145 E. Rich Ave., Suite E. That’s the office building anchored by the Landis Graham French law firm.

The local office is one of nearly 300 in the Senior Helpers system, with locations nationally and internationally.

Director of Operations Marjorie Marcus works with a team in the administrative offices: Administrator David Larrabee; Director of Nursing Eva Stolman; Denise Theer, the scheduler; and Tiffany Morgan, who handles human resources and other administrative duties.

Senior Helpers has more than 50 part-time caregivers on staff, who work on-call for patients needing anything from four hours of care once a week to 24/7 care. But as with many agencies, finding good caregivers is a challenge, Marcus said.

“A big struggle for all private-duty agencies is finding qualified caregivers,” she said. “We require caregivers to have a minimum of one year of experience … [And] we have specialty training and education to share with our caregivers and clients.”

All potential caregivers must pass background checks, pass a home-health care competency exam and take specialty courses, including CPR, Marcus said.

Senior Helpers will try to match appropriate caregivers with clients. For instance, if the agency knows a client has Parkinson’s, a caregiver trained to deal with that disease will be sent if possible, Marcus said.

DeLand’s Senior Helpers also is very active in the community.

“We try to support community events, even if it’s only with time and effort, but we have our own events, too,” Marcus said.

The office sponsors a community outreach and networking event, with a guest speaker, the third Thursday of every month at The Table in Downtown DeLand. It’s gathering toiletries that will be donated to The Neighborhood Center later this year. It also has worked with Brigette’s Blanket Brigade to supply blankets for the homeless.

Later this month, the agency is partnering with Haven Hospice to form the Better Breathing Club to support those with COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. At the end of November, Senior Helpers will hold a fundraiser for the American Lung Association at the Athens Theatre in DeLand. And a third annual Battle of the ALF Chefs will take place next April.

For more information about Senior Helpers and its services, call 386-736-2227.

- Joe Crews,


Chef competition raises funds to combat Parkinson’s

It was a battle for the ages. A battle of wills. A battle steeped in deep rivalries.

A battle … steeped in cheese sauce.

Eight chefs from assisted-living complexes across Volusia County recently descended on Downtown DeLand bistro Byte for the second annual Battle of the ALF Chefs: Battle Mac & Cheese.

Proceeds from the event, which is put on by home health care agency Senior Helpers, go to the Parkinson Association of Greater Daytona Beach.

Chefs from John Knox Village, The Cloisters of DeLand, and other prominent assisted-living facilities all showed off their culinary chops in the competition, putting their own personal touches on an American staple.

“This is the second year we’re doing it. Last year was Battle Meatballs. This year is Battle Mac & Cheese,” said Marjorie Marcus, director of operations for Senior Helpers of DeLand. “It’s a blind tasting. Everybody who attends votes on their favorites.”

The attendees — about 100 in total, including residents of local ALFs — each received eight small colored cups of mac and cheese, along with a ballot.

At the end of the tasting, each person ranked which three colored cups contained the concoctions that most pleased that person’s palate.

“It’s a great event. The main thing is we’re raising money for Parkinson’s, helping those people, that we need to find a cure for that,” said Chef John Davis, of Grand Villa of DeLand. “It’s a terrible disease. The mac and cheese contest, that’s second to that, of course.”

The disease affects many ALF residents, he noted.

Davis was last year’s Battle of the ALF Chefs champion.

“I won the meatball competition last year,” he said. “They come up with different items every year, this year being mac and cheese, which is tough.”

Davis described himself as a “Southern boy, but raised by an Italian grandmother,” and said he tried to keep his recipe traditional.

“I knew people would bring lobster and bacon and all that craziness, so I wanted to stay traditional and just stay mac and cheese,” he said. “So, I did seven cheeses, a little bit of truffle oil, some saffron, some cloves and béchamel, and just tried to chef it up, you know? Make it a little bit special, so when you take that bite, maybe it’ll be a little different than everybody else.”

The event was a fun — and delicious — way to raise money and awareness for Parkinson’s disease.

The disease is a progressive, degenerative and currently incurable nervous-system disorder. It comes on slowly, and can cause shaking, rigidity, slow movement, difficulty walking, and mental problems.

“Parkinson’s is super-important to the ALF community,” said Amanda McHugh, marketing director of The Cloisters of DeLand. “It touches all of us, so I think this is a great tie-in, and giving back to that organization is wonderful.”

Vince Kinsler, executive director of the Parkinson Association of Greater Daytona Beach, praised the event, and said the money raised for the association will help to fund activities the group provides, which include a dance program, exercise programs and support groups.

“The funds help to keep things rolling, to keep programs moving,” he said. “This is a wonderful event. Very, very important to our association, and I think important to West Volusia.”

For an unknown reason, Kinsler said, Parkinson’s and related disorders are particularly prevalent in the Volusia-Flagler area.

“This area, when you speak in terms of Volusia and Flagler, for some reason there are more people with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders than there are in much larger geographic areas,” he said. “We don’t know why that is. It might just be because it is.”

People with Parkinson’s, Kinsler noted, aren’t usually ones to give up easily.

“More than anything, these people are highly motivated human beings, people with Parkinson’s. The disease is miserable; it’s progressive,” he said. “There’s no cure, and yet, these people go above and beyond to relieve those symptoms. They are willing to try just about anything to help sustain themselves and live a more comfortable life.”

As for the mac and cheese competition, only one mac and cheese dish would be crowned most magnificent.

And in the end, John Knox Village Chef Jeff Hollen’s recipe proved superlative.

What about Hollen’s pasta pleased the people’s palates?

“It was kind of Southwestern and spicy. We called it Smokehouse Macaroni and Cheese,” Hollen said. “It had some pork belly.”

- Anthony DeFeo,

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