After receiving a diagnosis that can either affect yourself, your child, your spouse or a parent, it is a life altering experience. What to do next can be overwhelming. A good place to start can be a local support group. A local support group is a community of individuals who meet together from time to time to discuss, listen and to become more familiar with a particular area of need. Local support groups are varied from so many subjects that finding the right one for your need, can be really simple or difficult.
If there are no local area support groups in your area, perhaps you have decided there is a need in your community and you would like to start one. Below, you will find 5 keys to starting a local support group, for the need that you are in search of.
- Is there a need? How many other people in your community do you know, who are going through the same difficulty that you are? Have you heard of others who have suggested they are in need of advice or support? Checking with state agencies, that fit your need can be a wonderful resource. They can help you find out if there are any other local support groups in your area. They also, may have a database of individuals who are in the same need as you are, who can help you with the start up.
- Time- How much time are you able to put into a support group? In the beginning stages of planning it may seem like you are spending a lot of time getting the support group built up. Anywhere from one to five hours a week can be spent on launching a newly local support group. However, once you get things underway, an average of two to three hours a month is typical time spent on a support group.
- Volunteer- You may already have several friends who share your same need for support. Spend time talking with them about the idea of a local support group. Enlist your friends to help in the process. If you choose to name officers, these start up volunteers are those who will more than likely take these positions. Find volunteers who are willing to donate their time in different areas of the support group. The volunteers who share your same interest in a successful group will help you with your goal of achievement.
- Location- A central location in your community is the best place to serve your support group. You want a location that is easily available to all who are interested in coming. There are so many options for a location, but you will need to consider what is best equipped to serve the need you are looking for. If your need is small and intimate you may want to consider your or another volunteer's home. If your support group will be providing amenities, like childcare, than you will need to look for a setting that will be able to provide an additional area to accommodate that need, like a church or a recreational facility.
- Advertising- There are many ways to advertise freely to your community about your support group. Utilizing all of your free resources is a great tool in achieving a successful turnout. Below is a list of free ways to advertise:
- Word of mouth......tell everyone you know!
- Social media......create an event on your Facebook wall of page.
- Local newspaper......most local newspapers will advertise support group information for free.
- Flyer's......create a standout flyer with all of your groups information (time, location, amenities, topic etc) and pass out to schools, churches and other local business. Many of these will see approval first before putting up or sending out.
Once you follow these steps, sit down with your volunteers and discuss what topics would be beneficial for your needs. State and national agencies are a great resource to help you with topics and how to present them. Remember a successful local support group is rewarding in helping others, as well as yourself, to find the goal of what you all are in search of.