Lawrence nonprofit serves older residents who want to stay in their homes and avoid moving into assisted living facilities

photo by: Contributed

Community Village Lawrence member Helen Crockett, left, and volunteer Christy Kennedy. This photo was taken when Kennedy took Crockett to an appointment prior to Crockett's death in 2022 at the age of 99.

Sometimes the small things can be a big factor in whether someone can avoid moving into an assisted living or nursing home facility.

A Lawrence nonprofit focuses on those smaller tasks and uses volunteers from across the community to get the jobs done.

“Neighbors helping neighbors is a phrase we use quite often,” said Judy Bellome, a volunteer for The Community Village Lawrence organization.

The Community Village Lawrence has been servicing residents since 2012 and helps people with small tasks around the house and throughout the community. The people relying on the service can be any age but mostly are those who are past retirement but not quite ready to move on to a retirement community or an assisted living facility, Bellome said. It is a part of the national Village to Village network.

The Village is partnered with Lawrence Goodlife, which provides services for people with disabilities, and is made up of a network of vetted volunteers who are ready to answer the call — in some cases the email — to run errands, change lightbulbs, or even just to check up on members who may not have family members nearby.

photo by: Contributed

Community Village Lawrence volunteers Nancy Thellman, left, and John LaRocca, right, work to recruit volunteers and members at the The Merc Co+op, 901 Iowa St.

For $30 a month, older residents can have someone reliable to reach out to. The service is run by volunteers and the money is used to pay for administrative services and supplement fees for some members who cannot afford the full cost of the service, Bellome said.

“A member is someone who needs a little help staying home. They may need someone to take them grocery shopping, or change a lightbulb, or climb a ladder. If this was your mom or dad and they needed help, the Village would do it,” Bellome said.

The service isn’t devoted to standard services like house cleaning, regular deliveries, or health care but rather for those extra duties that might slip through the cracks, Bellome said.

To get help, a member calls into the Village or sends an email, and that creates a service ticket that is distributed to local volunteers and an available volunteer can plan to meet the person in need to get the job done, Bellome said. The service is currently limited to Lawrence, but Bellome said they would like to expand to the entire county.

“It’s whatever the community wants to make it. We would like to serve Baldwin City and Eudora but we have to get strong enough, with enough volunteers and members, to grow into those communities,” Bellome said.

photo by: Contributed

Community Village Lawrence members Betty Partridge, left, and Pat Lechtenberg attend a retreat.

In support of the service, the Community Village Lawrence has been holding an annual fundraiser for nearly a decade, minus the pandemic years, called A Taste of San Francisco, led by volunteer John LaRocca. For the event, the Village flies in fresh seafood from LaRocca’s family business in the San Francisco Bay area where fundraiser attendees pay $150 a plate, $50 for food and the $100 as a tax deductible donation.

“My grandfather started the second seafood business ever started in San Francisco, and it’s still in operation 120 years later, my nephews are running it. He started selling dungeness crabs out of a wheelbarrow and ended up having the largest fishing fleet on the west coast, but they don’t have boats anymore. Now, it’s more of a brokering thing,” LaRocca said.

This year’s menu for the event held at the Oread, 1200 Oread Ave. in January, included dungeness crab bisque, oyster shooters, ceviche and steak tartare and many other San Francisco inspired dishes, LaRocca said. Desserts and breads for the event were donated by Wheatfields, 904 Vermont St., in Lawrence.

photo by: Contributed

Pictured is a past Community Village Lawrence fundraiser event, The Taste of San Francisco, held at the Arterra Event Gallery.

The money from the fundraiser goes to community outreach to increase awareness about the Village and to help recruit new volunteers, LaRocca said.

Bellome said people who are interested in volunteering or want to learn more about using the service for themselves or their loved ones can call 785-505-0188 or email


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