Program Provides Lifeline for Families Living with Memory Loss

   Fox Valley Memory Project is a godsend, not only for folks experiencing memory loss, but for their family, care partners and friends.

   That’s because it operates and supports programs and services that improve their quality of life.

This Memory Café, hosted by Valley VNA in Neenah, is among a growing number of initiatives offered by the Fox Valley Memory Project.

   Located at the Goodwill Community Campus at 1800 Appleton Road in Menasha, the Memory Project’s purpose is to provide a variety of enriching experiences for those living with memory loss and the people who support them. It also works to make the whole community more aware of the impacts of this condition.

   Brianna Jenkins, the program coordinator of this collaborative, nonprofit organization, organizes activities throughout the Fox Valley designed to positively affect the lives of people living with dementia and their caregivers.

Among its growing number of initiatives is Mindworks.

   This is a facilitated program that offers learning and social experiences for people living with dementia that targets well-being, engagement and service work, while also offering respite time for care partners.

   In conjunction with Mindworks, a support group is provided for family members and care partners.

Christy Feuerstahler, music coordinator at Valley VNA, leads about 40 people in a drum circle where participants create music in different ways, but all together.

  The “Purple Angel” effort is training designed to share information about dementia with service and corporate groups. Volunteers are trained to offer these hour-long presentations.

Jenkins notes that the most visible and popular component is their Memory Café work.

   Memory Cafés offer informal, monthly learning and recreational engagement opportunities at locations throughout the Valley. The cafés are held at Memorial Presbyterian Church, St. John UCC, St. Paul Elder Services, Mosquito Hill Nature Center and public libraries in Neenah, Menasha, Kaukauna and Kimberly.

   Memory Café themes have included making and appreciating art, singing and appreciating music, cooking and holiday parties. Special groups such as NEW Voices, musicians from the Fox Valley Symphony and other talented presenters, have been invited to share their skills with participants.

Tom and Marlene tap out rhythms to music from members of Fox Valley Symphony’s “In Harmony” outreach program.

   Café ideas come from the volunteers at each site. The cafés are put together by volunteer facilitators and a cadre of assistants. Jenkins feels that several cafés could definitely benefit from more volunteer support. The staff also plans to bring the facilitators together more often to share experiences and plan new offerings.

   The project’s office is also becoming a Memory Loss Resource Center that offers phone consultation and print materials about dementia.

   The Memory Project is the newest partner agency of Volunteer Fox Cities. Jenkins said that she can already feel the “buzz” this increased visibility has created.

   To learn about volunteer opportunities at Fox Valley Memory Project, contact Brianna Jenkins at 920-225-1711 or or visit