By Sue Moore
For aging adults, being safe in their own home can add years of happiness, says Danna Downing, executive director of South County Community Services (SCCS). Her agency has been looking for ways to help those seniors to stay at home without the fear of falling or any other mishap they can’t recover from on their own. The program will also offer injury prevention and emergency preparedness information. The effort is focused on improving each senior’s sense of independence and safety.
Downing is also a member of the Vicksburg Rotary Club and helped past president Mark Mitchell write a grant to fund much-needed home repairs for seniors to be safe at home. Rotarians and other community volunteers would help with construction, but money was needed to fund safety devices such as grab bars, stair railings, smoke detectors, night lights, flashlights and reflective address numbers. The grant was approved by the Rotary District 6360 Foundation for $1,900. The local club promised to match the grant with $2,600 out of its coffers.
Finding the people who needed this kind of help requires a survey of seniors’ homes in the six townships that the agency serves, according to Downing. Club members and other volunteers will launch this survey in October with the goal of helping at least 20 high risk seniors to stay “Safe at Home.”
They are being assisted by “Faith Partners” who help SCCS in times of need, including Chapman Memorial Nazarene Church and the Vicksburg First United Methodist Church. These workers will be directed by Diane Durian, the senior outreach worker for the local agency.
As soon as a need is identified, Rotarians will order the construction materials, then install them under the supervision of the homeowner. “The grant and matching monies were allotted for purchasing the safety items but it’s the time spent helping others that the Rotary Club is all about,” Mitchell said. They also expect to build at least one wheelchair accessibility ramp with a portion of the funds. The American Red Cross will provide smoke detectors at cost and South Kalamazoo County EMS will fill the orders for reflective signage to go on people’s mail boxes. Steve Schimp at the Vicksburg Hardware store has agreed to provide the project with items at his cost.
The survey work and construction projects are expected to take place from now through June 30, 2019. Downing knows there are many more seniors than 20 in the South County service area that need help and hopes to build on the grant’s success to keep the program going much longer than the nine months allotted in the pilot program. For referrals or volunteering, contact Durian at 269-649-2901.
SCCS serves Prairie Ronde, Schoolcraft, Brady, Wakeshma, Pavilion and Climax townships in the southern tier of townships in Kalamazoo County.