Leeza’s Care Connection, on St. Andrews and Tram Roads, was founded several years ago by Irmo’s Leeza Gibbons, who has given the facility national exposure. Marti Colucci, the Columbia Director, recently gave St. Andrews Optimist an updated status and some interesting background focusing on the need for the center. According to Colucci, 39 percent of adults in the U.S. will at one time or another be placed in the role of caregiver. Being thrust into the role is sometimes a gradual coming to the conclusion that it is the appropriate thing to do, but far more often the responsibility comes suddenly. Chronic illness is the primary reason for the need for caregivers, who then more often than not, experience stress.

It is for that reason the Care Connection exists: to provide a place of support toward restoration. Caregivers have the opportunity to interact with other adults who find themselves in similar situations, and it is through interaction with the staff and with fellow caregivers that they are able to vent, commiserate, compare approaches, and share their caregiving experiences.

On a weekly basis, about 250 people utilize the facility. The mix of visitors ranges from caregivers to professionals donating their time. Colucci stressed it is important that caregivers not feel they are in their situations alone, but rather can rely on the facility for support. More than 100 volunteers, many of whom have lost their care receivers, are engaged in the daily operations.

The Care Connection is on a growth trajectory. There are now 10 locations around the U.S., with Columbia’s center being characterized as the “crown jewel” of the ten. Growth in this community has brought with it the challenge of parking space, so there is an active campaign to raise funds for parking expansion from the current 14 spaces to 42. Over half the spaces now have funding.

Photo: Marti Colucci is flanked by Jeremiah Davis, Club President, and by Colucci’s husband Billy, who served as speaker host.