Flying by faith
A Faribault County organization which does many good things for senior citizens has hit a financial speed bump lately.
“We are going to have a big challenge this year, in 2019,” says Dan Woodring, executive director of Interfaith Caregivers. “The largest grant which we receive each year has changed their fiscal year from July 1 to Oct. 1.”
That means, Woodring explains, they will have a quarter year without that large funding amount. That translates to nearly a $16,000 projected deficit.
It will be difficult to overcome, but not impossible, he adds.
“We sent out an appeal letter recently,” Woodring says. “That kind of letter usually results in about $3,000 in donations. This time, because we explained the situation, there has been $5,000 come in so far.”
Plus, he notes, the St. Paul Lutheran Church is donating the proceeds of their recently held Cookie Walk fundraiser.
“And the Blue Earth Lions Club is going to donate most of their profits from their Pancake Breakfast on Jan. 16 to us,” Woodring says. “Although they need to keep some for other worthy projects.”
Interfaith Caregivers themselves are planning a Waffle Benefit in February, and hope for a great turnout.
“The community of Faribault County does support us very much,” Woodring adds. “And we appreciate it very much. It helps us keep doing what we do.”
And just what is it that Interfaith Caregivers does do? The list is actually quite long.
“Our mission is to help seniors maintain independence, dignity and quality of life. We do this by coordinating volunteers for a variety of services and non-medical care,” reads their mission statement.
“We are probably best known for our providing transportation for seniors,” Woodring says. “Last year (2017) we provided 650 rides and covered 16,000 miles. We see ourselves needed to provide more rides for out of town appointments, to places like Mankato and Rochester.”
There are around 75 active volunteer drivers, with about 50 of those on duty at any one time.
“Drivers can be active when they want to be. Not all of them are active every single week,” Woodring explains. “They can take breaks. They can serve as much or as little as they want.”
Drivers are reimbursed 30 cents per mile, but many of them don’t turn in mileage for the short trips around town, only the longer ones.
Another big deal Interfaith Caregivers does comes under the heading of Homemaker and Chore Services.
“We have a federal contract for this service for 1,500 hours of work,” Woodring says. “This next year (2019) it will go up to 1,700 hours and it still won’t be enough for the demand.”
Basically, Interfaith Caregiver workers go into senior’s homes and do chores, mainly house cleaning and laundry. They do not do personal care, like bathing, or disperse medicines.
Currently there are eight Homemaker and Chore workers, each doing about two to four hours per week.
“Part of what we do with this service is just a basic check on the individual, to see how they are doing,” Woodring says. “Sometimes our staff notices things that perhaps the family is unaware of. Sometimes the senior takes care to look like everything is fine when family comes to visit.”
Another service is Alert Link, the button seniors wear around their neck or on their wrist. If they need medical attention and cannot get to their phone, they can push the button for help.
“We have partnered with United Hospital for this service,” Woodring says. “We do the installation and checks on the system.”
Woodring says they are investigation installing cellular based Alert Link systems, as more and more people quit having a landline.
Caregiver Support is another important thing Interfaith Caregivers do.
They will do consultation with caregivers who are trying to take care of their loved ones in homes. There is also group education and workshops, which provide tools for the caregivers.
And, programs such as In-Home Respite, REACH and Daybreak help those who are providing the care.
“Sometimes caregivers just need a break,” Woodring says. “Our volunteers are not just ‘babysitters.’ They do activities with them. It gives the caregiver a chance to go run errands or just stepping away for a while for some personal time.”
There is a lot more Interfaith Caregivers does for seniors and others in the Faribault County community.
They host a variety of seminars, from a Caregiver Support Class which meets in Kiester, a Parkinson’s Support Group monthly meeting, and a Caring for Those With Dementia once a month meeting.
They will come and do training for their Dementia Friends and Dementia Friendly at Work program.
“One of our ideas to implement is to make the county a “Dementia Friendly Community,” Woodring says. “We are looking at partnering with UHD, St. Luke’s, senior centers and others to see what we can do to help businesses and others learn how to help those with dementia when they are out in the community.”
Then there are the once a month Lunch and Learns that Interfaith is sponsoring.
“We try to have a different speaker every month dealing with a topic of interest to seniors,” Woodring says. “The lunch is free, although we do take donations. And we are trying to host them in different towns in the county. We took a couple of months off from the program for the holiday season, but we will be starting them up again soon.
A new program is called Memory Cafe, which is similar to the Lunch and Learns, but focuses on those battling forms of dementia and their family members.
Anyone with questions or wants more information can call Interfaith Caregivers at 507-526-4684 or visit them at their office at 301 Main Street in Blue Earth.
The staff includes, besides Woodring, Cassandra Caron Outreach Coordinator, Merry McGowen and Carol Soma Caregiver Consultants, Mary Kay Laabs ROSE Coordinator and Alert Link and Donna Iliff Daybreak and Memory Cafe.
Plus there are several part time workers and lots of volunteers.
“Our goal is to provide help so seniors can stay in their own homes as long as they can,” Woodring says. “And to have independent, healthy and meaningful lives.”
And, they have been doing just that in Faribault County since 1997.