Certification of the local program was noted Wednesday (November 17th) during the November meeting of the St. Joseph County Commission on Aging Board of Directors.
JD Yoder, a board member who is serving as the coordinator of the local program, displayed a plaque that says, in part:
Official Tuesday Toolmen, Inc. Chapter is awarded to St. Joseph County Commission on Aging on the 31st of October of 2010 in recognition of your partnering efforts and your contribution to the Tuesday Toolmen, Inc. National Program. You have successfully completed the required training to facilitate a Tuesday Toolmen, Inc. Chapter. Your commitment of providing a better way of living through aging in place tactics and assisting disabled individuals to maintain a safe environment within their homes.”
Sherry Swartz, coordinator of In-Home Services for the COA, drew inspiration and guidance from the Kalamazoo Chapter in her efforts to establish the local program to enhance in-home repair services provided by the COA – and it has worked. During Fiscal Year 2009-2010, she said the COA has served 62 or 63 clients. The most served previously in any of the nine years she has been involved in the agency’s In-Home Services department was 17.
During an interview with the River Country Journal, Swartz described the local Tuesday Toolmen program as “basically, a group of volunteers to go out and help our seniors in need of home repairs for safety and health issues in St. Joe County.”
JD Yoder, a COA board member with an extensive background in construction and an interest in senior services, is coordinating the local program. During the interview, he said, “It just seems like a logical fit.” And he said that projects have ranged from bathroom shower enclosures to bathroom floors to storm doors, “lots of handrails,” bathtub grab-bars – “anything that helps keep the seniors in their home safely a little longer.”
According to Yoder, there are about nine volunteers involved in the local group at the moment. He said, “We’re always looking for more persons with tool and handyperson capabilities who are willing to get dirty, who want to go in, get involved and get dirty.” (JD_Yoder_audio clip – :39)
Persons interested in getting involved as a volunteer should call the COA office and talk with Swartz or Laurie Wilcox to learn more.
Swartz said that to be eligible for in-home repair assistance through the program, individuals need to be 60 or older, own their own home, and have their property taxes paid up to date. To pursue such assistance, interested persons should call the COA office and talk with someone in the In-Home Services department. Information will be gathered though an “intake” on the phone after which a “pre-inspection” will be done to see if it’s a repair that can be handled through the program. (Sherry_Swartz_clip – :23)
Swartz said the local program is funded through a combination of millage, state and federal funding, and donations from clients serviced. The suggested donation is 25 percent of the full cost of the materials needed for the repair and Swartz said, “I want to make it clear that the donation is not like an invoice. If they can afford it – the cost of materials – that’s fine. They send in whatever they can afford.”
Yoder enjoys his involvement in the program and said, “You get to meet a lot of people with a variety of backgrounds of interests, people who have contributed to the community, their country over their productive life’s period and now we get to help them back a little bit in the situation, especially if they don’t have family or neighbors or church members who can help them out.”
Swartz said the certification by the national Tuesday Toolmen organization reflects several things: “The year of service that we’ve done, the 9 or 10 volunteers that we have, all the great work that they’ve done. The volunteers are a terrific asset to the Commission on Aging. They have a lot of skills that we need, or, actually, the seniors need, to meet their needs and stay in their home as long as possible.”
Yoder appreciates the recognition, but “even what’s more nice is the gratitude that we experience from the people that we give our services to.”
Both Swartz and Yoder see a future for the Tuesday Toolmen program in St. Joseph County. Yoder said, “As the senior population grows and as needs continue to grow, I think it will be able to grow and we look forward to it.”
The telephone number for the St. Joseph County Commission on Aging is (269) 279-8083 or Toll Free 1-800-641-9899. The office is located in the Three Rivers Community Center at 103 South Douglas Avenue.
To hear the entire interview with Sherry Swartz and JD Yoder, conducted by Bruce Snook of the River Country Journal, click here (7:33 – 6.91 MB).