It was a simple idea that began in the hearts of a diverse group of Paonia residents. They asked themselves whether residents in the North Fork Valley would be willing to perform small tasks that, when added together, would help senior citizens keep active, engaged with their community, and remain householders. Soon volunteers were assembled to rake leaves, shovel snow and drive their older neighbors to appointments.
That was three years ago.
Since that time the concept of creating supportive communities by connecting seniors and volunteers has mushroomed until the notion of providing a little help to others has expanded into Chaffee County, Jefferson County, and the Denver metro-area. And next month, the grassroots non-profit organization known as 'A Little Help' -- the heartfelt idea that originated in the North Fork Valley -- will launch an effort to serve the rest of Delta County.
To introduce the concept, Kathy Edwards, Delta County coordinator for the organization, has invited residents from Delta, Orchard City, Austin, Cory, Eckert, and Cedaredge to attend a party next week to learn about 'A Little Help.' The 'What the Help?' party will be held on Wednesday, March 7, from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Volunteers of America senior community care facility at 11485 Hwy 65 in Eckert. All interested Delta County citizens -- especially those interested in volunteering -- are encouraged to attend. Snacks and drinks will be served. To help with planning, those interested in attending are asked to RSVP by emailing email@example.com, or by calling 527-3482.
"Volunteers are the key to our operation," Edwards said. Once a solid base of volunteers is established and trained, the organization can begin reaching out to seniors in need of support. As a preview for prospective volunteers, Edwards outlined the process of "how it works:"
1) Those interested in volunteering complete an application and indicate the type of service they are willing to provide. Examples are driving a senior to an appointment or to shop for groceries; shoveling snow; providing occasional pet care; or doing light yard work.
2) Volunteers go through background screening and, after clearance, receive training and mentoring.
3) Once screened and trained volunteers are in place, applications are obtained from seniors in need of assistance. As part of the application process each senior indicates how much he or she can contribute toward an annual membership fee. (The service is not free but contribution amounts are tailored to the circumstances of each individual senior.) If a senior is accepted for membership, organization representatives conduct a home visit to further explain services.
After enrollment in the program, a senior needing assistance contacts 'A Little Help' with a request. Volunteers are alerted and each volunteer can choose whether to respond. Requests for assistance and responses are coordinated and negotiated until a match is achieved. Volunteers are not required to keep a regular schedule and can respond to help as their schedules allow. For this reason, having a sizeable group of volunteers is essential to the program's success.
In addition to initial training, volunteers receive regular continuing education in the form of online videos. Volunteers also meet periodically to receive information and mentoring from organization staff. And there are opportunities for volunteer and senior member interactions. These include neighborhood picnics and other social gatherings as well as occasional 'Service Saturdays' during which community members-especially high school students-help seniors with spring and fall yard work.
'A Little Help' sums up the program's potential impact on volunteers and senior members in its information brochure: "The simple act of helping can make someone's day. With A Little Help, you can help build a stronger community with a bit of your time and effort. Our team brings together people just like you-great neighbors who care."
To learn more about the organization, call 970-527-3482, or visit their website: www.alittlehelp.org, or contact them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.