By Jennifer Lazzo
Project Mend-A-House (PMAH) is rolling out a new healthy living program designed to provide seniors with in-home visits and transportation for wellness and quality-of-life needs.
Called Caring Connections, the program will be run by volunteers under the direction of a retired social worker (LCSW) who will work with George Washington University nursing students completing their community health clinical. The students will perform in-home health assessments while the volunteers will make friendly visits or drive clients to wellness visits or quality-of-life excursions like going to the movies, running errands or visiting a museum.
“We want to provide a suite of services, a well-rounded program, to act as a safety net for our clients,” said Jennifer Schock-Bolles, executive director of PMAH. “Many seniors are isolated, have no family nearby and can’t get around like they used to,” she said. “This program will help them rejoin the community and allow us to provide more holistic care.”
Schock-Bolles continued, “I’ve been thinking about a program like this for a while because transportation [in greater Prince William] is such an issue. But how would we fulfill the need without duplicating other services out there?”
In August, PMAH formalized a partnership with NV Rides, an organization that supports service providers offering volunteer-assisted transportation in Northern Virginia, which sought to expand into Prince William. The partnership is a win for both organizations. NV Rides will provide the scheduling software, pay for background checks, and provide training, which will be thorough and prepare volunteers for all types of situations, said Schock-Bolles.
PMAH received the seed money for Caring Connections in two small grants, one from Giving Circle of Hope and the other from Impact 1890, a national Lutheran program. Future costs will be funded by donations received through another new initiative, Adopt-A-Senior.
“Basically, $250 will allow a donor to ‘adopt’ an isolated and/or shut-in senior for one year. The funds will be used by the Caring Connections program to provide transportation to wellness and quality-of-life visits as well as a weekly in-home visit. The donor can pay it all in a lump sum or $25 per month,” said Schock-Bolles. “Once the program is up and running, they will receive a welcome packet and a story about their senior among other benefits. Of course, they are always welcome to volunteer as well!”
PMAH is now recruiting volunteers for leadership, driving and in-home visiting opportunities. Volunteers must love helping others, have a good driving record, be 21 or older, have been driving for at least five years and pass a background check.
Schock-Bolles estimates needing 30-50 volunteers. “We’re looking for people to launch the program, which is pretty exciting,” she said. “It all starts with one [volunteer]!”
For more information on the Adopt-A-Senior program, visit pmahweb.org/senior.html or call 703-792-7663.
Jennifer Lazzo ([email protected]) is a freelance writer and editor who earned a B.A. in technical journalism and political science from Colorado State University. She lives with her husband and twin girls in Montclair.