Archived Story

Volunteers needed to lend senior citizens a hand

Published 10:31pm Tuesday, September 6, 2011

United Way of Southwest Michigan is looking for a few hundred volunteers on Nov. 3 to go into the community and help local senior citizens get ready for the long, cold Michigan winter.
“The Day of Action for Seniors will serve up to 200 senior citizens in Berrien and Cass counties,” said United Way President Anna Murphy. “We will rake leaves, clean gutters and seal windows. But it is going to take an army of about 400 volunteers to get it all done.”
United Way is asking companies to put together teams of volunteers for the Day of Action for Seniors.
Volunteers are encouraged to give the entire day, but if they are only available for the morning or afternoon, United Way will gratefully accept the help.
“Companies in our area are starting to put together teams of people for this day,” said Sharon Polfus, United Way director of business revenue. “While serving the community, this is also a great way for companies to do some employee team building.”
United Way, through a partnership with Area Agency on Aging Region IV, is recruiting seniors who are in need of the services.
“We partnered with Area Agency on Aging to make sure we are reaching our most vulnerable seniors,” Murphy said.
“In addition, the service is open to any other senior in Berrien or Cass counties. Our primary goal is to help those seniors who are unable to do the work themselves and it would cause a financial hardship for them to pay to have it done.”
Seniors can sign up through the United Way Web site at www.uwsm.org or by calling (269) 982-1700. Seniors will be served on a first-come, first-served basis.
The number of homes will depend upon the number of volunteers.
People don’t always think about how difficult winter preparation is for seniors, said Christine Vanlandingham, fund and product development officer for Area Agency on Aging, Region IV. “Leaf-raking is an aerobic activity that requires twisting, bending, lifting and reaching. There’s great potential for physical strain and injury.”
Gutter cleaning and window insulation put seniors at risk of falling, Vanlandingham explained.
“Falls are the leading cause of injury and the most common cause of hospitalization for older adults. A fall can impact quality of life and result in the loss of a senior’s ability to live independently.”
The help goes beyond safety. The gutter cleaning and window sealing can help seniors on fixed incomes save money in heating bills and costly roofing repairs.
In addition, having a group of volunteers come to their homes to volunteer will help battle the feeling of isolation seniors can have.
“Many older people in our community feel isolated and are disconnected from the surrounding community,” Vanlandingham said. “To have a group of volunteers come to their home and engage in service will let our local elders know they are valued.”
Volunteers can sign up to participate at the United Way Web site, www.uwsm.org, or by calling (269) 982-1700.

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