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It’s a small step in the right direction in a fight against a universal problem.

To better serve the residents of Southern Maryland, the Alzheimer’s Association National Capital Area chapter relocated from its office on Charles Street in La Plata to White Plains.

The move, said Shelly Edwards, the group’s programs and services manager, will afford the group more space and allow it to host informational events and education sessions. The Southern Maryland contingent has been operating in the space since July 1, Edwards said.

Susan Kudla Finn, the National Capital Area chapter’s president and CEO, acknowledged the need for continued support in the fight against the degenerative disease.

“There is such an important role for volunteers that elevates your status to being a key player. You’re not ‘just’ a volunteer,” Kudla Finn said.

Kudla Finn emphasized the high emotional and financial costs that the disease can rack up for both those suffering from it and their caregivers.

“There is care and support in Maryland, and we need more of it,” Kudla Finn said. “There is a stigma associated with this disease that we must remove.”

When she took on the role of president and CEO two years ago, Kudla Finn said, she quickly learned that U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) and state Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton (D-Charles) were longtime participants in the group’s annual fundraising walk. Kudla Finn described Hoyer as “a champion of the Alzheimer’s movement.”

“This is a team effort, and I’m pleased to have been involved for a long amount of time,” Hoyer said. “As we focus on collectively coming together to provide that hope and help, [Kudla Finn] is right. We can’t possibly afford the compensation for all our wonderful volunteers.”

Despite the threat of budget cuts to the National Institutes of Health that Hoyer said would be detrimental to continuing research geared toward eradicating the disease, Hoyer said that Marylanders have powerful advocates in their corner with Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D) and Ben Cardin (D). The senators, Hoyer said, are an “extraordinary team” who use their voices for the benefit of those affected.

“It is not the time to flag,” Hoyer said. “This is not the time to retreat.”

Middleton has personal experience with the disease, as his mother was afflicted with it. While caring for her, Middleton said, he saw her through “three bad years” in which her condition rapidly deteriorated.

“It’s a long goodbye. ... It’s a terrible, dreadful disease,” Middleton said. “The care and treatment, the respite you give ... is so important to these families.”

Through her own research, Charles County commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly said, she learned that the county has 1,300 Alzheimer’s patients. For a time, Kelly (D) said, she helped her own sister and other family members through lengthy illnesses, although not Alzheimer’s. Kelly said she relates to the constant struggle Alzheimer’s caregivers face.

“I tell you this because I see an importance for research. ... You’re angels walking among us,” Kelly said. “We understand that we need to set our county up to be prepared to help. Be vigilant in making sure we know what you need.”

Jordan Smyth, the group’s chairman, said he has high hopes for the future of the Southern Maryland branch moving forward.

“It gives us such a great presence here,” Smyth said. “Just being here to directly help the people affected is so important, and that’s hard from a remote location. We’re thrilled to be here.”

The White Plains office will maintain a small staff, and those interested in its services should call 240-518-8496 to schedule appointments and find out more about upcoming events and classes.

lrenner@somdnews.com