The Green River Area Development District “Senior Connections” AmeriCorps seeks to improve the quality of life for the at-risk elderly in Western Kentucky by providing in-home assistance in the areas of chores, home management, home repairs and caregiver relief in an effort to improve the quality of life for more than 300 seniors in the seven counties they serve. Their service in the community goes far beyond the normal 8-4:30 routines. The program does not require weekend and evening activities but all of the events have had a team of members responding to recognized needs. “Senior Connections” members are assigned to various sites in the counties of the Green River Area Development District. Each placement is in response to recognized needs of its senior population within a given community. The members have a role description, which outlines their service. The “Senior Connections” AmeriCorps members go far beyond that what that role description entails. They do not need to be asked – they just do what needs to be done. Examples include:
- The City of Livermore has a citywide potluck on Veteran’s Day and 10 members went on a Saturday to set up the tables, roll silverware, serve the residents, wash dishes and take the tables down.
- Daviess and Ohio County’s “Repair Affair” each had a team of members respond on a Saturday to provide much needed repairs to the homes of low income senior homeowners.
- A garden was planted for the residents of a local nursing home as well as several special parties planned and implemented.
- The local Red Cross chapter provided additional disaster response training on a Saturday. Members arrived to assist and participate in the training.
- The Long-Term Care Ombudsmen needed additional volunteers to visit and monitor the area nursing homes and members responded.
- Hospice had patients who needed respite care on weekends so their caregiver could attend church services and members assisted with this request.
On January 3, 2000, a tornado struck Owensboro. By 7pm that day, the “Senior Connections” members were helping the American Red Cross set up the shelter to care for those who were displaced as a result of the disaster. For the next three weeks, in addition to maintaining their clients, the members staffed the shelter, delivered meals on the Emergency Response Vehicles, sorted and delivered cleaning supplies, and assisted with damage assessment. The members were also instrumental in providing a Christmas party for the 300 children who literally had their Christmas “fly out the window” as a result of the tornado. The members picked up toys donated by area merchants, sorted them by age groups, staffed the party and helped with the cleanup. All of this was in addition to serving their senior clients.
Clients often call and give thanks to members who stopped by to check them on a Saturday or came to the hospital to visit them or called to make sure they were all right in the evening. Clients have called the express gratitude for the groceries or rides to the doctor, or the fresh vegetables left on their porch. None of these activities are part of the “Senior Connections” members’ service assignment. What is done is volunteerism from the heart.