History of the Volunteer Ombudsman Program

The Volunteer Ombudsman Program was established in 1994, to supplement and extend the advocacy services of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, focusing solely on residents living in skilled nursing facilities. The volunteer program began as a pilot project and today is a respected program in select designated counties.

The Volunteer Ombudsman Program provides weekly advocacy services from hundreds of trained Volunteer Ombudsmen for hundreds of residents living in long term care facilities. The program continues to offer life-changing opportunities for individuals to be an advocate, to be a voice, to make a difference in the lives of the people living in local nursing homes and to make a difference their own lives as well.

Between May, 2007 and July, 2008, the Board implemented a pilot project for the opportunity to have a Volunteer Ombudsman advocate for residents in community based residential facilities(CBRF).  this portion of the program was successful: however, it ended due to lack of funding.  the volunteers in the pilot project had the opportunity to be trained for the skilled nursing facility component, and will continue as advocates in assigned nursing homes.

In 2004, to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Volunteer Ombudsman Program and to make tribute to the founder of the Volunteer Ombudsman Program, and former Board Member, Louise Abrahams Yaffe, the Annual Louise Abrahams Yaffe Volunteer Ombudsman Program Award was created.  This prestigious award is presented each year to an outstanding Volunteer Ombudsman through a formal nomination and Board selection process.  Anyone can nominate a current Volunteer Ombudsman.

In 2008 the largest expansion of the Volunteer Ombudsman Program was conducted. The first Volunteer Services Supervisor was hired, as well as, three Volunteer Coordinators. This process brought about adding 20 counties and more Volunteer Ombudsmen to the program's coverage area.

On April 16, 2013, to celebrate the Volunteer Ombudsman Program's upcoming 20th anniversary, the first state-wide Volunteer Ombudsman Program in-service and recognition event was held in Madison. This event was held to show the Volunteer Ombudsmen our appreciation and to acknowledge the impact their caring, concern and commitment has on the lives of the residents we serve.
The Volunteer Ombudsmen, the Volunteer Coordinators and the Regional Ombudsmen, and BOALTC  management staff participated in a day of learning, networking, and festivities in Madison to celebrate this milestone for the Volunteer Ombudsman Program.

During the celebration a special tribute was given to the founder of the Volunteer Ombudsman Program, and former board member, the late Louise Abrahams Yaffe, with the presentation of the Louise Abrahams Yaffe Volunteer Ombudsman Program Award to Louise's three children;  Alice Gruenberg, Jim Abrahams, and Jane Butenhoff.

On May 15, 2019 the 25 year anniversary celebration of the Volunteer Ombudsman Program was held in Madison. Two years of preparation, 155 people invited, a day to celebrate together- Priceless!

Volunteer Ombudsmen, Volunteer Coordinators and Regional Ombudsmen were bussed in from 32 counties to attend the event. See the Volunteer Ombudsman ​coverage map.​​

A​ gro​up of ​95 Board on Aging and Long Term Care Volunteer Ombudsmen, Board Members and Staff posed for the celebration photograph and autographed the keepsake board to commemorate the 25 year anniversary of the Volunteer Ombudsman Program.