College volunteers ‘here to help’ the elderlyDebbie Griffin photo UW-River Falls students Katie Sheehan (left) and Charlee Borg started a volunteer service that does small everyday tasks for senior citizens.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
UW-River Falls student Charlee Borg said she got the idea for starting Here to Help after working a while at Walgreens and talking with senior citizens who patronize the store.
Borg got to know the customers and says one lady opened her eyes to the frustrations of aging. She shared how she sometimes couldn’t manage simple, everyday tasks like opening a pill bottle.
The young clerk saw bruises the lady sustained just from trying to change her bed sheets. She heard other stories that made her sad and got her thinking.
“I had wanted to do something,” said Borg, “I just didn’t know what.”
So she decided to start an all-volunteer free service for the elderly called Here to Help.
The concept includes building a corps of volunteers who can stop by and help senior citizens with little jobs around the house.
Borg’s partner, Katie Sheehan, said sometimes people scoff at the small things with which seniors have trouble. People tend to think of the tasks as easy.
“We belittle it, take it for granted,” said Sheehan.
She’s had elderly people in her own family die from preventable falls and says that helps motivate her to develop the Here to Help service.
The list of help available through the service is somewhat subjective but may include doing tasks that require climbing a step stool or ladder, such as changing a light bulb or the batteries in a smoke- or carbon-monoxide detector.
Volunteers could stop in to open medicine bottles and separate pills into easy-open containers for the week.
Borg and Sheehan say they might run a vacuum quickly, take out the trash or recycling, shovel a porch or sidewalk, change bed linens. The young women say it helps to think of tasks that could be completed in less than an hour.
“We’re not a cleaning service, we’re a helping service,” clarified Borg, who added that all requests will be considered.
Sheehan agrees, “It’s more for necessities than wants.”
She said as people call, their requests will be screened. The “gatekeepers” will also be careful not to let people take advantage of the free services.
They say Here to Help can only serve seniors within city limits because many of the students don’t have cars. The volunteers will work in pairs for safety.
Any service takers must have the supplies needed for the task. For example, if it is snow removal, the person must have a shovel.
Sheehan and Borg say they’re building a network of volunteers through friends, classmates and other people they know. When a person calls, they’ll try to schedule someone to come at whatever times the person has available.
The young women in their junior year of college say they expect the service to evolve. They hope it will gain momentum and continue even after they’ve graduated.
They’ve hung flyers around town and had a few calls for help already.
Since Borg soon leaves for Europe and will be gone a few months, Sheehan will take calls and coordinate volunteers. To reach her, call 651-246-2389 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.