Do South Cares: Project Compassion

WORDS Catherine Frederick with Marian Conrad, Executive Director, Project Compassion

Nov 1, 2022 | Life, Nonprofits

The mission of Project Compassion is to bring joy, companionship, and enhanced quality of life to residents in long-term care and senior living facilities. Do South reached out to Marian Conrad, Executive Director, to learn more. 

1205 S. Albert Pike Avenue
Fort Smith, Arkansas  72903

DS: What is Project Compassion?

We are a local nonprofit organization formed in 1972 by the late Gloria White. She was a nurse and was astonished to find that most residents in nursing homes here had no family or friends visiting them. She led a small group of volunteers to begin visiting residents in two local nursing homes. Her vision was to mitigate the loneliness factor by making sure that each resident had a volunteer to befriend them and visit them on a regular basis so that they would not feel invisible, 2022 marks our 50th year! We have stayed true to the mission and Gloria’s vision while increasing the unique programs we provide. We now serve over 2,500 residents in 26 facilities.

DS: How has the need for your programs changed/evolved?

As our population ages, and life expectancies increase, elderly citizens become more dependent on others to meet their basic physical and social needs. Many have very limited resources and they are separated by distance or circumstance from friends and family. In addition, as we are a mobile 24/7 society, those who do have loved ones nearby may only get visits a few times in a year. Our volunteers bridge the gap and make sure that their resident can count on them to return for regular visits.

During the pandemic, we pivoted our programs to serve residents with telephone and video calls, window visits, cards, and special surprises that we could drop at the facility. We collaborated with home health agencies, hospitals, schools, civic organizations, and churches to help coordinate efforts in our communities. Thankfully, we have returned to face-to-face visits and relaunched our programs to the delight of our residents, volunteers, and facility staff. We all celebrate a world we used to take for granted.

DS: What is something we may not know about Project Compassion?

We have a group of volunteers called “Fidgeteers” who sew fidget quilts to engage and comfort residents who suffer from various forms of dementia. These quilts feature touch-sensory fabrics and embellishments to enhance dexterity, mental stimulation, and relieve anxiety. Bright colors and photos add to the appeal of each design created. Zippers, buckles, lacing, snaps, chenille and small fabric “stress” bears redirect behavior and focus attention in a positive way.

DS: How can the community get involved?

Our volunteers are intergenerational and come from throughout the River Valley and Eastern Oklahoma. There are opportunities to help with events, special programs, and holidays. Check our website for the Hearts of Gold event, our Eric Stein 5K, and our 50th Anniversary wrap-up celebration. To volunteer, donate, and find out more on these events, call or visit us online.

Next month, we’ll showcase another worthy nonprofit in our area free of charge. Requests for this free page accepted beginning October, 2023. Send inquiries to, or call 479.782.1500.

Do South Magazine

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