A day of action

Published 10:03 am Wednesday, October 21, 2015

While this latest wave of warm, mild weather might make residents think otherwise, winter is still on the horizon.

A challenge for any household to prepare for, readying ones home for the onslaught of ice, wind and extreme cold is an especially trying task for senior citizens.

Thanks to the collective efforts of more than 500 volunteers, seniors living in Berrien and Cass counties will be taken care of before the first batch of chilly white stuff arrives for the season.

The United Way of Southwest Michigan is once again organizing its fifth annual Day of Action for Seniors, which takes place on Thursday, Nov. 5. Around 550 volunteers have signed up to assist around 160 seniors, performing winterization tasks for households across Niles, Buchanan, Dowagiac, Cassopolis, Edwardsburg and other local communities, said Teri Cooper, project coordinator with the United Way.

The volunteers, broken into 50 different teams, will tackle multiple homes during the morning and afternoon hours that Thursday. The team members will rake leaves, clean gutters, winterize windows and perform other simple maintenance tasks for the elderly residents living there.

“We’re just getting our seniors ready for the winter,” Cooper said. “These folks can’t do it themselves anymore, and they’re on fixed incomes so they can’t hire anyone to do it either.”

Volunteer teams can range anywhere from a handful of members to a couple dozen, with the average team consisting of eight members, Cooper said.

“We have organizations that look forward to this event every year, just for the chance to go out into the community and help our seniors,” Cooper said. “We have some great people in the community.”

Most of the teams are with companies such as Whirlpool or Midwest Energy Cooperative; some though, are formed from individuals just looking to pitch in and help, Cooper said. While around half the volunteers are veterans of the event, the other half usually consist of fresh faces looking to pitch in for the first time.

The teams will also present gifts to the seniors they help that day, Cooper said. The volunteers, meanwhile, get something else in return: the satisfaction of spreading goodwill to their neighbors, Cooper said.

“I think it’s the warm feeling you get inside, knowing you did something to help someone else,” Cooper said.

Seniors wishing to have volunteers stop by their house next month can sign up by contacting the United Way at (269) 982-1700, or online at http://www.uwsm.org/dayofactionforseniors.