Partners In Care

| March 13, 2009 | 0 Comments
Partners In Care offers rides to the elderly or disabled.

Partners In Care offers rides to the elderly or disabled.

Money may be tight these days, but if you are a frail, older adult in several locations in Maryland you don’t have to have a dime to obtain rides and small handyman repairs. What happens when we become too old or frail to drive to the grocery store or the doctor’s office? What do we do when arthritis makes it impossible to make the smallest repairs around the house or even to change a light bulb? What if our friends have moved or passed away and we don’t have family nearby  to help us?

Partners in Care is a 501C3 non-profit dedicated to the mission of helping older and disabled adults remain independent and safe in their own homes. Volunteers using their own cars (for the last 15 years) provide MORE THAN 100 no-monetary-cost rides per WEEK, for example, to the doctor and to the grocery store, along with other no-cost services such as 300 or more small handyman repairs per year. It received a national honor recently from the National Council on Aging as being one of 14 organizations in the nation who will be mentored as national models for civic engagement of older adults. President Obama has emphasized civic engagement/volunteerism, and Partners In Care’s 2600 members have been at it successfully for 15 years.

The program was founded in 1993, modeled on a concept called “service exchange.” In the model, participants earn one “time dollar” for every hour spent assisting others. Those participants then use those time dollars to “pay” for services they themselves need.

Initially the three founders sat around a kitchen table in 1993 and wondered if it were possible that the concept could be developed to effectively provide services to the needy residents of Anne Arundel County, Maryland. They proved it was more than possible. They helped 13 members their first year and Partners in Care now has hundreds of members receiving services in a well-choreographed exchange that has changed the lives of many. The program seeks to build community by encouraging its members to exchange services which improve the quality of life and access to the basics of food, clothing, and shelter for everyone. Exchanged services may include transportation, grocery shopping, handyman assistance, yard work, or even socializing. Everyone is called a “member,” whether giving or receiving services. There is no cost to join.

Typical of our members is “Mary.” Mary is 90 years old, and one cannot see her intelligent bright eyes because she is bent over at the waist as she clutches her walker. She is so frail that it may take an hour or two to pick up a few items at the grocery, but she tries very hard to maintain her health by eating adequately and she loves to get out for a little while. She has lived in the same home for most of her adult life, and she would like to stay there. She lives on Social Security alone, and would not likely be able to afford to live elsewhere. She is too frail to take a bus, and she cannot afford a taxi. Besides, it takes a minute or two for her just to get into a car. She very much needs the arm-in-arm, door-to-door service Partners in Care can provide. Partners in Care also offers transportation across county lines, for example, to Baltimore and Washington.

partnersincare1What began as a kitchen-table non-profit has developed into a vital resource with 2,600 participants currently exchanging more than 20,000 hours of services each year—in Anne Arundel County and Frederick, Maryland with offers pending to expand across the state.. Approximately 800 members are primarily volunteers while others are more likely to need assistance than to provide it.

Many of our volunteers have almost made a career of helping others. One volunteer, for example, has logged almost 2,000 of volunteer service and has donated more than 6,000 miles of driving since 1994. The kind, one-on-one, arm-in-arm service he provides involves picking up the individual at their front door, taking them to their appointment, waiting with them, and bringing them safely home again, often stopping for prescriptions or groceries along the way. Thus, the quality of life of isolated seniors improves dramatically—from the social interaction and sense of community that is built into the program.

Other volunteers perform handyman tasks for the elderly. When projects are too big to do alone, groups are organized to undertake bigger jobs.  Some volunteers appear in the Partners in Care office several times a week to pick up safety equipment that they install for the elderly and disabled—from raised toilet seats  to bathroom railings.

The founders remain active in the program: Barbara Huston serves as CEO, Sandra Jackson is transportation coordinator and Maureen Cavaiola is on the board of directors. The current economic crisis is not an obstacle; it is only an inspiration to pump up the volume on this quiet gem of a community program. Partners in Care has received numerous awards and has been recognized over and over by city and state transportation officials for providing essential “niche” services that help seniors stay safe and independent in their homes. The vision is to expand its already-successful programs and assist many more older people in the community and expand throughout the state and nation.  With donations of time and financial support generous individuals in the community Partners In Care’s dreams for thousands of older adults will come true.

Volunteers and monetary donations are always needed! Or if you need help, call us! For more information phone 410-544-4800. Donations may be entered online at www.partnersincare.org or sent to: Partners In Care, 6 South Ritchie Highway, Pasadena, MD 21122. Volunteer orientations will be held March 24, April 15, May 19, and June 18-your choice of 2 p.m. or 5 p.m. Please phone 410-544-4800 to request a volunteer application and to reserve your orientation date.

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