It all started with a small group of about 20 neighbors. In 2005, older adults living in the Washington Park area were trying to figure out how they could stay in their homes, even though home maintenance tasks were becoming more difficult as they aged. One couple held a neighborhood meeting at their home to see who needed help, and who could offer help to others. The helpers and the ones in need then paired together and exchanged contact information. They called it Wash Park Cares.
In 2007, Wash Park Cares incorporated as the nonprofit organization A Little Help, with the goal of connecting neighbors across generations. They later hired an executive director and made the decision to expand the organization. Now, A Little Help serves the needs of older adults across the Denver metro area, as well as Larimer County and the Roaring Fork Valley.
The organization pairs volunteers with older adults to help with transportation, snow shoveling, friendly visits, house and yard work, respite for primary caregivers, and social activities. “It’s neighbors helping neighbors,” says Amanda Gregg, metro Denver director of A Little Help. “It breaks down the barrier of fear, and gives people a structure to make those connections.”
Gregg says that transportation help is the service that older adults request the most, followed by friendly visits. “It shows that people are really socially isolated, especially when they have health issues and can’t move about easily,” says Gregg. She adds that with all their services, a big part of providing the service is also taking the time to chat.
Ardene Yeargan, 97, gave A Little Help a call almost three years ago, after her step daughter, who usually helped her, moved to Grand Junction. Primarily, A Little Help volunteers drive Yeargan to eye doctor appointments, and beauty shop appointments once a week. She’s also attended several of their picnics at different parks, and a Christmas event.
“They are so helpful,” Yeargan says. She knows several of her regular drivers by name, and a couple of them live near her home. “Everyone I’ve met has been very nice, polite, pleasant, and jovial. It’s a great organization.”
How Families Can Help
Children of all ages can volunteer alongside their parents. “We’ve had people bring babies in strollers,” says Gregg. Here’s how A Little Help can use your efforts:
- Shovel snow for older adults during the winter months. Kids are always welcome to help, play outside while you shovel, or visit with the older adult.
- Commit to being an ongoing volunteer throughout the year. Gregg says that while they have 3,000 volunteers in the database, many have volunteered just one time. Only a small portion of that number volunteer regularly to serve their 1,200 older adult members.
- Drive older adults to appointments, social events, and other places.
- Go to the homes of older adults for friendly visits.
- Plan activities that your family can do with an older adult, based on your creative interests and abilities.
- Drop off your teen, or group of teens, to do specific activities with older adults. Gregg says they are always looking for more teen volunteers.
- Attend a Service Saturday one-time event. Check the online calendar for upcoming dates.