Neighbors Helping Neighbors Grant Summary

On Thanksgiving, it feels especially fitting to thank those who participated and supported our Neighbors Helping Neighbors project.  This write up serves as a summary of results from our City of Boulder Neighborhood Partnership Spark Grant.  Our team was composed of neighbor volunteers, along with Board Members of the Gentle Passages/ Sustainable Paths Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to compassionate and affordable aging in place housing options for Boulder's active adult older population.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors founder Neshama Abraham (right) met Kenny, a North Boulder resident with MS who would like help with grocery delivery to his home  
Goal: Our project began with the question: "Where are our at risk Boulder seniors living, and do they have an existing support system in an emergency?" 

Definition of terms: "At risk" meant a Boulder resident age 65+ who has a physical condition and/or a mobility limitation, like Kenny (left) who is in a wheelchair. An "emergency" included when a senior living alone fell and couldn't get up -- who would know to come and help? An emergency also constituted a natural disaster, such as a flood or fire when the city electricity could go off. 

Why We Did This Project 
Our initiative was created to: 1) Help the City of Boulder be more resilient in an emergency; and 2) Create more community connections in the North Boulder neighborhood targeted for this project.

We consulted with the City of Boulder's Senior Services Dept. which gave us valuable input on the design and implementation of our project. The Senior Services Dept. also provided material on programs available to Boulder residents age 55+. We also received input from City of Boulder Neighborhood Liaison Amanda Nagl who introduced us to representatives at  Boulder County Care Connect, a non-profit association offering free services to seniors through four volunteer-powered programs.

North Boulder Launch Event
We launched our initiative with a public community event for North Boulder neighbors to discuss the idea of at risk seniors and to see how neighbors wanted to respond. The "North Boulder Neighborhood Conversation" took place on Oct. 23, 2016 at the North Boulder Rec Center. We provided a free  lunch donated by local restaurants. Thank you to sponsors Moe's Bagels, Noodles & Company, BreadWorks and SweetCow ice cream. 

We created a flyer (above right) that was hand distributed to 600 homes in a 1/2 mile area bordered by Iris and Elder Avenue and Broadway to 19th St.

About 30 citizens attended our community event (see photo left) with approximately half being seniors seeking help; the other half were primarily North Boulder residents of diverse ages who wished to offer assistance to seniors.

Guest speaker, Michele Seipp (pictured below), Programs Director at Boulder County Care Connect (BCCC), joined our lively conversation. Her presentation was well timed as many of the needs expressed by seniors can be met by free services offered by volunteers through BCCC programs. Services discussed included:  YardBusters to help seniors with yard work, IceBusters to remove ice and snow from cars and driveways, Grocery Caravan to buy food and deliver groceries to a person's home, Medical Mobility transportation to take seniors to medical appointments, and a home repair program.  

Michele Seipp of Boulder County Care Connect discusses free programs for seniors at our Oct. 23 North Boulder community event
From the Oct. 23 launch event, three pairs of volunteers were excited to walk door-to door in the Garden Home Subdivision in North Boulder. 

To prepare for going door-to-door, we needed something "official" to identify ourselves as Neighbors Helping Neighbors volunteers so citizens would feel safe in speaking with us. We created badges (pictured right) and used a simple intake form to gather information on a clipboard. We also produced a half-page leave-behind for people we spoke with and to at the home where a neighbor on the block let us know an older person lived. 

Neighbors Helping Neighbors volunteer teams offered senior service resource material as we went door-to-door 

In addition, we collected a variety of handout material from senior service organizations, such as Boulder County Care Connect, City of Boulder Senior Services, Via Mobility Services, Circle of Care, Meals on Wheels, Boulder County Area Agency on Aging, Boulder County Legal Services, Dignity Care, Medicare, plus the comprehensive Boulder County Seniors BlueBook. We provided handouts at our Oct. 23 event in addition to bringing items with us while walking door-to-door (see samples left).
Elders at Risk
Because one of our project goals was to help Boulder Emergency Services know where an  elderly resident lived who may need help in an emergency,  we spoke with City of Boulder  Police Chief  Greg Testa.

City of Boulder Police Chief Greg Testa gave input on the information needed by Emergency Services 

Per the Chief's guidance, w
e designed our intake form to obtain the senior's name, address, phone number and to provide a brief description of their situation. We collected this information d uring our walking, and identified about a dozen elders at risk. The Chief passed on the information we obtained to the City Dispatch Manager for the City Police and Fire 911 Dispatch Center for first responders. Chief Testa wrote us a kind note saying: "You and your team have done great work." 

Volunteer Kim Kreutzer (right) joined Neshama in connecting with North Boulder neighbors and passing out senior service resource materials 
On Sunday, November 6, 2016, volunteer teams walked from Broadway to 19th St. on both the east and west side of Elder Avenue. Another team went door-to-door on Hawthorne Place covering the loop next to the Community Gardens. 

Many valuable connections were made by meeting neighbors in person. Highlights follow.

*  In the Garden Home Subdivision where we walked it was typical that one or two elders resided on each block. 

*  We connected an older couple Mary Francis and
Volunteer Meera Levine (left) and Neshama Abraham teamed up to walk along Elder Ave. in North Boulder
her husband Mike with next door neighbor Mark who said he'd be happy to help with their leaves, and didn't know they needed assistance.

* We introduced Ivan, an older man getting back surgery who lives with his wife who has dementia, to Steve (see below left) a neighbor down the street who offered to help clear the snow off their driveway.

Annie Hannagan, a BCCC IceBusters volunteer, speaks with her neighbor Steve whom she met for the first time on Nov. 6. Steve offered to help an older couple on his block with snow and ice removal
*  We scheduled a home "friend visit" with Kenny, an older resident with MS who very much welcomed having occasional tea and conversation. 

*   One of our volunteers who joined the IceBusters Program offered to regularly take snow off the car for an older man in North Boulder dealing with cancer.

*  We met Suzanne, an adult daughter needing help with her aging parents and connected her with BCCC and another neighbor on her block.

*  We gave emotional support and senior service info to adult daughter, Laurie, who is struggling to take care of both a dying mother on hospice and a mentally ill sibling.

* We learned that the Boulder County Care Connect Program offers valuable free services to meet key senior needs, and we worked to help expand the non-profit's volunteer base to create more local connections between North Boulder seniors with North Boulder volunteers. BCCC Volunteer sign up.

*  As a result of our efforts, about a dozen elders at risk are now entered into the City of Boulder police and fire 911 system to help first responders if they receive a call from any of the addresses we provided.

The Neighbors Helping Neighbors pilot program in North Boulder demonstrated the value of people meeting face to face. People said how much they appreciated our effort, and thought what we were doing was "great." We experienced how generously neighbors offered help when they learned an older neighbor on the block needed assistance. We saw how people gained as much by giving as those whom they were serving. We are proud to have initiated this neighborhood outreach effort, and we would like to encourage this kind of community building program to happen in other Boulder neighborhoods to continue to make our city even more resilient and connected.

Thank you to volunteers Meera Levine, Kim Kreutzer and Annie Hannagan who walked door-to-door with Neshama in this rewarding experience.  Thank you to Amanda Nagl and the City of Boulder for this opportunity.

Neshama Abraham 
Board Member, Gentle Passages Foundation/Sustainable Paths
Founder, Neighbors Helping Neighbors
720-925-5161 (office) 303-596-9905 (cell)