AFriends logo


A publication for volunteers of the Arthritis Foundation, Great West Region
June 2013

Articles This Issue

The Ripple Effect
Local students with cognitve and emotional disabilities volunteer weekly to support the everyday needs of the Arthritis Foundation. Find out more.

Friends in the Field
"When you give, you get" embodies Helen Stemler's ethos towards donating her time and talents to the Arthritis Foundation. Read her story.

Mission Spotlight 
The Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment Program seeks to increase the number of specialists needed to combat and treat juvenile arthritis. Find out how.

Resource Pool
The Arthritis Foundation's new online learning management system offers volunteers countless new options for training and skill-building. Discover more.

Your Local Arthritis Foundation
Take a tour and meet the staff of the Montana office, one of the 11 office locations of the Great West Region. Get started.

Dollars for Doers
From volunteer hours to donation matches, corporations may have unique ways of supporting your volunteer efforts for the Arthritis Foundation. Find out how.

Special Specialists
Find out the most recent individual volunteer opportunities in the Great West Region. Find out more.

Volunteer Ventures

Bring A Friend to the Foundation

Get Connected



The Ripple Effect

Local students with cognitve and emotional disabilities volunteer weekly to support the everyday needs of the Arthritis Foundation.

volunteersFor the last decade the Arthritis Foundation has partnered with Denver area school districts to have students with cognitive and emotional disabilities volunteer weekly during the school year to support the everyday needs of the Foundation. These students range in age from 15 to 21 years old. They complete tasks necessary to the mission of the Foundation. Even more so, their volunteering has a ripple effect that touches many lives: those living with arthritis through the support the students give to the mission; the students themselves who gain new skills to be better prepared for life after school; and the staff and volunteers who work with them.

Students come to the Arthritis Foundation, Denver office three days a week in groups that range in size from two to eight people. The students complete a variety of projects at the office. Each week they collect recycling throughout the building which requires them to interact with staff members and volunteers. They also label brochures, prepare folders for education forums, make event goody bags and tie the Jingle Bell Run bells on to pipe cleaners. Activities such as these require them to recall directions and work on their counting and motor skills.

“Something that a lot of people don’t understand is that simulating a work environment in a classroom setting isn’t realistic for kids with severe disabilities because they don’t understand how to generalize. We have to actually go to places, like the Arthritis Foundation, which teaches them how to work with a variety of people in different settings and how to take direction from a variety of bosses,” says Elizabeth Repensek, Teacher/Case Manager of the Multi-Intensive Autism program at Thomas Jefferson High School (TJHS).

Repensek (pictured above, on left with student Ben) goes onto explain the effect this has on the lives of the students. “They begin to understand that sometimes your job is doing something over and over or it could change at a moment’s notice. Learning how to do that outside of the classroom and in the community better prepares people for life.”

Kenny, a junior at TJHS explains why he enjoys coming volunteering at the Arthritis Foundation, “I like helping people, it makes me feel good,” he says. When asked about the skills he’s learned while volunteering he replies, “I like to talk to the people there and I learned how to use the shredder.”

Camille, a sophomore, adds, “It’s really fun to pull the paper out of the boxes for recycling. And, I really like stuffing the [Arthritis Walk goody] bags.”

Students are not only supporting the thousands of people living with arthritis in their community through their efforts, they also touch the lives of Arthritis Foundation staff.

“Working with these students is one of the best parts of my job,” says Jill Lysengen, Field Relations Manager at the Arthritis Foundation, who works with the students on their projects. “When they become more comfortable and confident here their personalities, sense of humor and talents really shine. They are challenged in many areas of their life but these students continue to laugh, sing, make jokes and show kindness to others. They’ve taught me a lot and most days I feel like they’ve given me so much more than I’m giving them.”

Laura Rosseisen, Chief Development Officer agrees, “While I value every single one of our volunteers, I am always especially thankful to the students who come to our office on Tuesdays and Fridays! To see them have a chance to give of themselves and their time is very gratifying, and I am so proud we are able to provide that opportunity to them.”

Though the student volunteers have taken a summer hiatus, the Arthritis Foundation staff look forward to welcoming new and familiar students back in the fall.



Friends in the Field


Helen Stemler

"When you give, you get" embodies Helen Stemler's ethos towards donating her time and talents to the Arthritis Foundation.

Helen Stemler has found a formula of exercise, treatments, mental well-being and education in order to manage her own diagnoses of osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. Now, as a volunteer for the Arthritis Foundation, she hopes to help others find their own path to disease-management success.

HelenName: Helen Stemler

Location: Monterey, CA
Volunteer for the Arthritis Foundation, Great West Region Monterey Office

What is the story of your arthritis diagnosis?
I’ve been diagnosed with osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis at age 42 and have had seven total joint replacements since then. My first joint replacement was my left knee, 25 years ago, and my latest joint replacement was my left shoulder in November of 2010.

It was a struggle to get my fibromyalgia diagnosis. When I was 58 years old, I began seeing a variety of medical specialists. My muscles had really started to hurt and be sore and I found that I had certain points on my body that hurt a lot when pressed. Even though I was dragging myself to get to the pool in the mornings to exercise, I was tired all the time and taking naps often. I also felt confused a lot and had trouble focusing and absorbing information (what I now call “fibro-fog”). Finally, I received my fibromyalgia diagnosis at age 63.

For both my osteoarthritis and my fibromyalgia, I’ve found that if I start my day with swimming and tai chi exercise in a warm pool, my pain is diminished and I can be pain-free for four to five hours. Like the Arthritis Foundation says, “movement is medicine.” If I miss a day in the pool, I have pain. I also do aerobics on a stationary recumbent bike four times a week as well as participating in other fitness classes. Along with massage and positive thinking, physical activity really helps me manage both my fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis.

What was one of the more challenging times for you since your diagnosis?
One of the most challenging times with my health was when I was living in Bermuda. The dampness there made my osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia much, much worse. I could hardly walk one block. I was in Bermuda working on a very big Government contract, and I was really struggling. The pain was unbelievable.

How did you first get connected to the Arthritis Foundation?
It was word of mouth. I talked to someone who mentioned that an Advisory Board was being formed for the Arthritis Foundation Central Coast Branch in Monterey, California. They were looking for people with a variety of backgrounds and I thought that mine, in both health and education would be mutually beneficial.

I already had a lot of meaningful volunteer experiences with other voluntary health organizations, such as the American Red Cross, American Lung Association, American Heart Association and American Cancer Society when I was living in New York City and Maryland. I had recently relocated to Monterey, California and I missed the experience of working with nonprofit organizations. I interviewed for the Advisory Board position and was accepted. It was a great way of connecting my personal experience of having arthritis with my professional experience working in research for the National Institutes of Health and program development and surveillance for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It gave me a way for my experiences with these connections to help others with arthritis.

What were some of the ways that the Arthritis Foundation was able to help you?
Every member of our Advisory Board either has arthritis or has an immediate family member living with arthritis. This ensures that arthritis is always up front and personal in our work and meetings. As an Advisory Board, not only do we plan programs, events and community outreach in our area, but we also support one another in the challenges we face related to arthritis. It’s a great support system.

I also really appreciate and learn from the Arthritis Foundation’s website, The resources on the website are great.

I became a member of the Arthritis Foundation, and get all the latest Arthritis Foundation literature. I use their materials as a check-list for what I should be doing for my own health, or what I should be doing better.

How have you been involved with the Arthritis Foundation as a volunteer over the years?
I serve on the Advisory Board for the Arthritis Foundation’s Central Coast Branch. We serve Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties in California in Monterey and are part of the Arthritis Foundation Great West Region.

I’m often in the community presenting numerous Arthritis Foundation “Living Well with Arthritis” seminars. I tailor these presentations to specific groups’ needs – if I’m presenting to members of a senior living facility, I may focus the presentations more on mobility and exercise issues, for example.

I do a lot of community outreach for the Arthritis Foundation. The Arthritis Foundation has a booth at the expo for the Big Sur Half Marathon. It is a huge event. With other volunteers, I’m there, providing people with information about the Arthritis Foundation and connecting them to our events. The people at the event are from all over the country. The half marathon expo always takes place before the Jingle Bell Run/Walks, so I like to connect people at the expo to their local Jingle Bell Run/Walk in their area for when they return home.

There are lots of other ways I like to be out in the community, whether it’s sitting in front of a Whole Foods Store distributing arthritis information or participating in health fairs, educational groups or community events. I want to get awareness of the Arthritis Foundation and their mission into the community.

A great project I developed at our local Jingle Bell Run/Walk was an “Ask a Doc” station. During the event, Jingle Bell Run participants asked questions of an assembled panel of experts, including an orthopedist, rheumatologist, pharmacist, nutritionist and physical therapist.

I’m also an advocate for the Arthritis Foundation. I am a supporter of the need for much more research for all forms of arthritis. We need to discover the underlying causes of arthritis, as well as discover more effective treatments to control pain. I really believe in the Arthritis Foundation’s statement that “today’s research can enable tomorrow’s cures.” The more community outreach I can do, the more people are educated about the need for arthritis research and may support it.

What makes a good volunteer?
Good volunteers are persons who have a focus in knowing what they care about and also know what they’re good or great at doing. If you connect these two traits you can come up with a real gem of volunteerism where you bring joy to yourself and receive a lot of satisfaction.

The Arthritis Foundation considers itself a volunteer-driven organization. Why do you think this is so important?
The unique nature of organizations like the Arthritis Foundation means that they depend upon volunteers. The time, talent and skills of volunteers are needed to help the organization grow and meet its mission. Volunteers are essential and valued.

What are some of your favorite Arthritis Foundation volunteer experiences?
They’re all my favorite!

Everyone I meet at every event is so unique and special. If I meet people with fibromyalgia for example, I share my story and struggle and what I’ve learned so that they can hopefully get faster, better treatment and practice wise self-management. I use my experiences with surgery, medical treatments and living day-to-day life with osteoarthritis to give people practical advice and tips, always informing persons to follow the treatment plan from their physician. I hope to inspire people and give them hope. Since I am a retired health educator, I want to continue to be able to use my professional skills and experience to help people where I can.

Was there ever another volunteer that impacted your life?
A member of our local Advisory Board leads all the volunteers at our Jingle Bell Run/Walk. She has been living with severe rheumatoid arthritis for a long time. She’s on strong medications and oftentimes, I’m certain her pain is two hundred times worse than mine. I admire her fortitude and commitment. She gives so much of her time and the consistency of her volunteer work impresses me. Nothing holds her back. She has showed me the importance of fortitude, perseverance and not making excuses when trying to get a job done.

For those individuals that may have hesitations about volunteering for the first time, what would you say to encourage them?
For those with hesitations, I would offer that it is “incredible” to give service to others.

Volunteering for the Arthritis Foundation is easy. There are many ways to get involved in the Arthritis Foundation community, whether it is for a couple of hours once, an ongoing commitment, or anywhere in between.

Most importantly, I’d tell them what my parents taught me… “when you give, you get.”




Mission Spotlight

The Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment Program seeks to increase the number of specialists needed to combat and treat juvenile arthritis.

Under the Affordable Care Act, Congress authorized the establishment of a Pediatric Subspecialty Loan Repayment Program. The program seeks to address the critical shortage of pediatric rheumatologists in America by assisting with student loan payments for new pediatric rheumatologists willing to practice in underserved areas and areas where there is a critical shortage around the country.
HR 1827
Currently there are 300,000 children living with Juvenile Arthritis in America and less than 250 board certified, practicing pediatric rheumatologists to care for them. Of the 50 United States, 11 states have no pediatric rheumatologists, 18 have only one, two or three, and the remaining 21 states have four or more pediatric rheumatologists. This critical program is up for reauthorization under the Pediatric Subspecialty and Mental Health Workforce Reauthorization Act of 2013 (H.R. 1827).

The bill has been introduced by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) and currently has six cosponsors. Any Representative can show their support for access to care for America’s 300,000 children living with JA by cosponsoring HR 1827.

Take action! You can ask your Representative to support HR 1827 by calling the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and asking to speak with your Representative’s office.

Find out more:

Learn more about the shortage of pediatric rheumatologists and action steps that you can take.



Resource Pool

The Arthritis Foundation's new online learning management system offers volunteers countless new options for training and skill-building.

A new tool to help volunteers on their road to success at the Arthritis Foundation will be available beginning the third quarter of 2013. A New Volunteer Orientation will launch on the online Learning Management System. This online orientation is a welcome addition for both staff and volunteers.

“It creates an exciting new tool for expanding Arthritis Foundation programs and activities. It provides volunteers with a more in-depth understanding of the organization’s mission and goals. With that knowledge and a working relationship with staff outside the area, a volunteer will be better prepared to represent the Arthritis Foundation in previously underserved areas,” says Lisa Fall, President/Chief Mission Officer in the Great West Region.

The orientation will introduce volunteers to the Arthritis Foundation and its mission, objectives and the programs, services and development work that takes place to achieve the objectives; demonstrate the importance of the work we do; and the highlight the wide scope of volunteer opportunities.

LMSThe New Volunteer Orientation is just one of the many online classes that will be available to volunteers and staff. “The new LMS training system will offer a variety of learning opportunities, via virtual classroom with live instructor led or self-paced programs,” says Angelita Colbert, Director of Training and Organizational Development at the Arthritis Foundation national office.

Staff and volunteers have many areas to choose to take classes in for both personal and professional development. Some classes include brushing up and attaining new skills in Microsoft Word, Excel and Power Point; decision making; using strategic thinking skills; better interviewing strategies; leadership essentials; organizational problem solving; and diversity training.

To view all the classes available visit Learning Management System Once there, click the on Sign Up for New Account and enter your information.

Don’t forget to look for the New Volunteer Orientation when it is released in the third quarter! For questions regarding orientation please contact Jill Lysengen, Field Relations Manager, at




Your Local Arthritis Foundation

Take a tour and meet the staff of the Arthritis Foundation, Great West Region's Montana office, one of the 11 office locations of the Great West Region.

Montana staff

Nestled in the quaint city of Missoula, Montana, Arthritis Foundation staff members Carrie Strike and Katie Levine operate the Great West Region’s Montana office.

The Montana office serves as a one-stop shop that is capable of providing information and resources to Montana residents affected by arthritis. The Montana office’s resources and outreach capabilities wouldn’t be possible without the help of their many volunteers.

The Montana office benefits from a partnership with the Montana State Health Department’s Arthritis Program, collaboratively working to improve the quality of life for Montanans affected by arthritis and other rheumatic conditions. Together the Montana Arthritis Program and the Arthritis Foundation have partnered with sites throughout the state to implement the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Programs and the Walk with Ease Programs. Since the partnership began Montana has nearly tripled the amount of class offering across the state. Currently, the Arthritis Foundation National Office has ranked Montana as second in the nation for the number of new Walk With Ease participants.

Since 1967, sorority Alpha Omicron Pi’s philanthropy focus has been arthritis research and education. The Alpha Omicron Pi chapter located on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana has been conducting fundraising events twice a year on behalf of the Arthritis Foundation.

“Volunteers like Alpha Omicron Pi and our program instructors are critical to servicing a large state like Montana,” says Katie. “Their passion and dedication are essential to our ability to provide programs and services in as many Montana communities as possible.”

If you would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities or programs and special events in Montana, please contact the Montana office at 406.203.3020.

Find out more:
Learn more about the Montana Office’s programs, events and resources.



Dollars for Doers

From volunteer hours to donation matches, corporations may have unique ways of supporting your volunteer efforts for the Arthritis Foundation. 


Corporate giving can take many shapes from a matching gift program to corporate community fundraisers.  There are even some businesses that give their employees paid time off to volunteer at a local charity and provide grants to organizations at which their employees volunteer.  

Thanks to Barbara Noble, a long-time Arthritis Foundation volunteer and retired Chevron employee, the Arthritis Foundation has received grants between $500- $1,000 a year for the last five years from the Chevron Humankind program.

"Our employees contribute their time, energy and talent to help improve their communities and we want to increase the value of that commitment," said Rhonda Zygocki, Chevron's Vice President, Policy, Government and Public Affairs. "Chevron Humankind builds upon the partnership of our company and its employees with communities where we live and work, to make employees' contributions go even farther."

“I have arthritis and it’s a wonderful place to volunteer,” Barbara says, explaining why she continues to support the Arthritis Foundation. “You treat your volunteers very well and I enjoy the work, it keeps me sharp.”


Find out more:

Your employer’s human resources department will be able to tell you what kind of employee volunteer programs and incentives it may have available.




Special Specialists

The Arthritis Foundation has countless volunteer opportunities available for people of all ages and ability levels. Here are some of the latest unique skill sets needed.

Special Specialist Positions Needed:

Event Photographer for the Jewels of the Vine wine tasting event in Colorado Springs, CO on Friday, August 23, 2013. Digital or print photo capability preferred.  Commitment approximately 5 hours on the day of event and uploading photos to the event’s Facebook page post-event.  Email for more information.

Light landscaping and grounds maintenance at the Arthritis Foundation Denver, CO office, Monday-Friday anytime. Helping with trimming bushes and trees, pulling weeks and parking lot clean-up to keep the area nice and safe for visitors, staff and volunteers. Email for more information.

Experienced Tandem Biker in the Seattle, WA office to do training rides with the honoree for the People’s Coast Classic who is vision impaired.  Preferably the volunteer would have their own bike but the honoree has one that will fit someone about 5’10” to 6’2”.  Email for more information.

To learn more about all volunteer opportunities the Arthritis Foundation has available around the Great West Region please visit our Volunteer Resource page.



Volunteer VenturesVolunteer Ventures


Jordan Heaton (pictured, middle), a 15 year-old committee member/volunteer for the Salt Lake City Arthritis Walk, created carnival games for the children’s area at the Walk. The children attending the Walk had a blast playing Jordan’s interactive games!






Bring a Friend to the Foundation


Help our volunteer family grow! Share AFriends with friends or family members who may be interested in volunteering!

Subscribe to receive future publications



Get Connected

Find your local Arthritis Foundation office to get connected to programs and events.

Find out about all of our volunteer opportunities on our Volunteer Resource Page or fill out a volunteer application.

Feedback or ideas for AFriends future stories? E-mail

Read back issues on the AFriends Archive page.

Subscribe to receive future publications


Donate Button






Nebo Content Management System Tracking