Congratulations to our January Volunteer of the Month Denise Butler! Denise first connected with our chapter four years ago as a volunteer for our Peers and Partners program. She and her husband moved to Williamsburg to help support her father-in-law when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. When Denise’s own mother was diagnosed with vascular dementia, she struggled to find resources for support after the diagnosis. In 2010, she started out as a volunteer at Riverside Center for Excellence in Aging and Lifelong Health (CEALH). In 2014, she wanted to do more for her community and has volunteered with our chapter ever since.
While Denise was born in Memphis, her father was in the Navy, and she moved around a lot growing up. She went to college locally at Old Dominion University and then married her husband Michael. As Michael was in the Foreign Service, they lived in places all around the world for over 30 years. These travels took them to places such as Portugal, Bucharest, Buenos Aires, Norway, Spain, El Salvador and Finland.
While her husband was teaching at West Point, Denise achieved her Masters in Counseling. Eventually, her husband left the Foreign Service to help provide support to his father who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The couple moved to Williamsburg where Denise started volunteering at the Riverside Center for Excellence on Aging. She started overseeing the geriatric assessment clinic 5 years ago and continues working there to this day. Denise became a certified counselor and helps facilitate the Riverside FAMILIES program.
Denise started volunteering with the chapter in 2014 as a facilitator of our Peers and Partners early-stage support group. She also plans to facilitate a new support group starting this February for caregivers, family, and friends of persons with Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD). FTD is so different from other forms of dementia. Caregivers to those who have been diagnosed with FTD go through vastly different scenarios that the caregivers of those diagnosed with vascular dementia. Denise is excited about the opportunity to learn more about the specifics of FTD and help loved ones of those who have been diagnosed with FTD with their specific challenges.
Denise also started a Memory Cafe with the Riverside Center for Excellence on Aging and Lifelong Health in Williamsburg sponsored by the Peninsula Agency on Aging, which is about to start meeting twice a month. Memory Cafes are so important to Denise because they provide a place for socialization for the those diagnosed at any stage of dementia and their care partners. She enjoys being a part of these meetings and it means so much to her how everyone is able to come together for coffee, treats, and meaningful chit-chat.
Denise has found working with those diagnosed in the early stages to be particularly beneficial. She has been affected deeply by the families and her interactions with those who come to her support groups and meetings. It has changed how she interacts with people on a daily basis. She is much more empathetic to everyday challenges. Helping those suffering with dementia is not only a professional passion, but also a very personal passion for Denise. This is her vocation; to work with families and help caregivers with their own wellness.
In her spare time, Denise loves to read and take care of her two dogs, Paco and Heidi. Denise and Michael also travel frequently to visit their two sons, one who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland and the other in Greensboro, North Carolina. Often the family will meet up in Charlottesville to spend time together.
We are so lucky to have Denise as a dedicated volunteer to our chapter! To learn more about how you can volunteer for our Chapter please visit our website at https://www.alz.org/seva/in_my_community_104988.asp