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Volunteers asked to reach out, help needy seniors

Hundreds of seniors in Hillsborough, including many in South Tampa, are waiting for help. And all it would take is a few lawn mowers, willing hands and a lot of sweat to solve their problems.

I know this because of ElderLink, a consortium of nonprofits that provides aid to seniors.

Some of them live alone and want to get ElderLink's phone calling service, which means people would call regularly to see if they're okay.

Others want friendly visitors to stop by and check on them.

Still others wait for a major yard cleanup, 93 to be exact, and about a third of them live in the South Tampa area.

The programs are in place. The problem is that the volunteers aren't.

Right now, there's a waiting list 571 names long for the various, often simple, services that ElderLink offers.

Like that yard work — although it may not be as simple as it sounds.

Because some have a hard time getting around, seniors on the list have let their yards get in disarray, to put it mildly, and their needs can be big.

"I'm not talking about cleaning up rose bushes," said Lisa Richardson, director of development and community relations for Centre for Women, which is the lead agency in the ElderLink consortium.

Some seniors are in violation of city codes, their yards full of debris and overgrowth.

"There are so many seniors that need that help, and we really need a lot of volunteers to get that done," Richardson said. "We really see this as a big problem and a big need."

Yard work is one of the most sought-after services that ElderLink provides. The program typically works with families, Rotary clubs, organizations and businesses that corral teams of volunteers to complete a yard project for a particular senior in their community.

ElderLink got a $3,000 grant earlier this year from the Alliance for Children and Families, which helped to subsidize the yard program. The money helped workers publicize the effort by distributing information to various agencies and attending health fairs and other community events to solicit volunteers.

The grant runs through July 31, but the program — and the need — is nonstop. Seniors are screened and their needs are assessed to make sure they meet eligibility requirements.

They must be 60 or older and live in Hillsborough County. Singles can't make more than $1,500 a month; couples, no more than $3,000 a month. They must own their homes.

Volunteers are trained to work effectively with the elderly and to communicate with them.

"A lot of time seniors have a hard time asking for help," Richardson said.

Groups of volunteers often range from about 10 to 30 people. Families who want to participate may be grouped with others to create larger teams.

Judging from the flood of support from readers in South and Central Tampa in the past when I've written about dogs and children in need, I'm hoping that many seniors in this area will soon get some help.

>>fast facts

To help

To volunteer for the yard program or to help with other senior services, call ElderLink at 571-1684.

Volunteers asked to reach out, help needy seniors 05/22/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 22, 2008 4:34am]
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