Archive for Friday, May 17, 1996

I CAN HELPS OLD PEOPLE

May 17, 1996

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Helping the elderly continue to live in their own homes is the goal of an interfaith organization.

Glenna Herd laughs when asked how busy she's been with a new program designed to make life better for senior citizens.

"It's exciting. I'm hanging on with both hands. It's like a roller-coaster ride," said Herd, the project director of the Interfaith Caring Neighbors, known as I CaN.

The organization, which began offering services March 4, now has 37 trained volunteers who serve the needs of 31 elderly people in Lawrence.

"The main thing we're set up to do is to help older people live in their own homes as long as possible," Herd said earlier this week in her office in the Lawrence Senior Center, Seventh and Vermont.

The organization is set up to help people who are age 60 and older.

"It's an interfaith cooperative effort," she said. "We provide informal support services to care givers, homebound and senior citizens."

Eleven congregations of various faiths are providing most of the volunteers for the effort, while a few are from the community at large, she said.

"It's been received very well," she said. "We did a lot of our homework beforehand and talked to every agency we could think of that dealt with older adults."

She said the volunteers go into individual homes and mainly provide respite assistance and shop for groceries. They also do repair work around the home and some household chores, make visits and telephone calls and provide information and referrals.

The program came about in 1994. Herd was then working as minister for older adults at the First United Methodist Church. And she collaborated with Margo Gordon, the church's chair of a committee on older adult ministries.

They contacted I CaN's national organization to see how they could start their own program in Lawrence. They were awarded a $25,000 Faith in Action grant in October by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to get the program started.

Herd said there are no financial requirements for recipients of help.

"There's no red tape to go through," she said. "We work through the partnership congregations, getting referrals and volunteers."

Clients aren't required to pay for services, although the organization does take donations.

Herd said she hoped the organization could provide a higher quality of life for the elderly in Lawrence. She hopes to get 100 volunteers and serve 100 people by Jan. 1, 1997.

"There have been studies that show it's usually much healthier if a person could be independent as long as possible," she said.

She said Lawrence currently has a lot of services for older adults.

"What we're trying to do is fill the gaps," she said.

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