A non-profit designed to help seniors in the North Fork area remain independent officially launched last week.
More than 60 members, volunteers and friends attended a Dec. 1 party to celebrate the official launch of A Little Help North Fork Valley at The Hive Paonia. ALH volunteer coordinator Katie Gnauck presented Janice Thorup an award for being the first volunteer to sign up, membership coordinator Marjorie True presented the first member award to Eleanor Zoeller, and Kathy Thompson recognized Doris Wehrmacher of Crawford as the first donor.
ALHNFV started as a discussion between local Baby Boomers about ways they could remain independent and in their own homes for as long as possible. At an early meeting they formed a six-member task force team and began researching their options. They decided on the name, "Aging in Place," created a plan, and put out a call for others to help with research, organization and other tasks.
An early cost analysis revealed that to cover start-up costs alone the organization would need to seek grant funding or charge a hefty annual membership fee. Team members also wanted a more attractive name for the organization. In searching on-line for names, task force member Kathy Thompson discovered the Denver-based A Little Help. When she visited their site she found that they shared goals. She and task force member Dave Knutson contacted ALS executive director Paul Ramsey, who was hesitant to offer them anything since earlier attempts at branching out were met with little success.
In an early phone call with Thompson and Knutson, Ramsey, who attended last week's celebration, said he was very impressed at the group's professionalism and the amount of work they'd done. Last April, Aging in Place joined forces with the Denver organization and changed its name to A Little Help North Fork Valley.
The partnership has not only provided valuable information, but saved the organization enough money in start-up costs to allow them to significantly lower membership costs, said Knutson.
They currently have 14 members and 33 volunteers, and interest in the organization is growing, said Marjorie True, a Hospice nurse and one of six members of the ALHNFV team. To date the organization has fulfilled 31 requests for services.
Snow shoveling is one of 13 services provided to ALHNFV members. Vetted volunteers also provide services including help with driving to medical appointments, the store or to social events, shopping, yard-work, light cleaning, home visits and check-in calls.
For members who require professional services, such as house cleaning, making or delivering meals, masonry, painting or plumbing and electrical services, ALH can provide referrals to local service providers.
ALH also strives to "not reinvent the wheel" by not duplicating services already available through other organizations.
A recent volunteer recruit is also the organization's youngest volunteer. Hotchkiss High School senior Nolan Egging became interested in volunteering after hearing about ALHNFV at a Knights of Columbus meeting. The Hotchkiss High School junior, student body president, National Honors Society member and two-sport athlete said he wants to work with seniors and, despite his loaded schedule, said he has the time. He also likes the physical work.
True says they want volunteers "not just to go out and do things, but to be present." Each fall and spring ALH holds Service Saturday, where groups of two or three volunteers visit member homes and do chores like raking leaves, cleaning windows, weeding, mulching, light cleaning or stacking firewood. At the first Service Saturday, held in October, 16 volunteers worked at nine member homes.
The organization would like to have more presence in Hotchkiss and Crawford. Branch team member Larry Ribnick, whose background is in school social work, lives in Crawford and has given presentations to church groups, non-profits and to Crawford Town Council. To date, Crawford has one member. He said he thinks it will take more one-on-one communication to bring more people on board, which could take time.
With many of the volunteers old enough to be eligible for membership, having someone to do heavy lifting is valuable and appreciated, said Ribnick, who is also Egging's neighbor in Crawford. At the October Service Day Egging was able to lift an air conditioning unit out of a window of a member's living room, which might not have happened without him.
Egging said he hopes to recruit fellow students, many of whom look for volunteer opportunities, in part because they look good on college and scholarship applications.
That can also help ALHNFV achieve one of its main purposes, connecting generations, said True. The organization is also interested in working with other organizations, church groups and scout troops that already assist or have an interest in assisting seniors.
For more information on joining ALHNFV as a member or volunteer, call Randy at 260-0106 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.