Nonprofit offers caring connection for seniors
"Our mission is to promote the security, comfort and independence of seniors and adults with disabilities," said Emily Ditty, executive director of Boulder-based Boulder County CareConnect, a network of support stretching back 40 years.
With a staff of nine full-time employees and offices in Boulder and Longmont, CareConnect organizes a volunteer army of more than 900 people serving Boulder County. The organization provides direct services such as grocery shopping, grab-bar installation, transportation, home repair and yard maintenance to more than 2,500 residents a year, Ditty said, as well as over-the-phone referrals and local television programming addressing issues of aging to thousands more. The program also hosts three full-time AmeriCorps volunteers.
CareConnect's long-standing success hinges on the sense of community fostered throughout the program, Ditty said.
"We really want to retain that sense of friendship and family that so many of our clients say they value," Ditty said.
That's kept volunteer Ed Kletzky working in CareConect's Carry-Out Caravan program for two years.
"I've done more than just deliver groceries," Kletzky said. "I've visited them when there's been a crisis. I've been to the hospital when they've been sick. I find it very rewarding and very fulfilling."
CareConnect relies on donations from the community for much of its $600,000 operating budget, supplemented by federal grants and local and city government funds, Ditty said, with 88 cents of every dollar going directly to services. Anyone age 55 or older qualifies for service, she said, as well as permanently disabled adults or those with temporary disabilities because of surgeries or illnesses such as joint replacements or cancer treatments.
CareConnect's business partnership program offers area companies a chance to support Boulder County's aging community. Businesses can pledge financial support to CareConnect or arrange "done in a day" projects for groups of employees interested in hands-on community service.
"They get all the warm, fuzzy sort of intangible benefits, but they also get recognition," through CareConnect's various publications and events, Ditty said. Area businesses such as Tebo Development Co. and Frasier Meadows Retirement Community support the nonprofit through the business partnership. Dignity Care LLC has been a committed partner for a decade, said Todd Stork, its senior adviser.
"I feel that CareConnect serves the biggest need and the greatest population for seniors who have limited resources," Stork said. Dignity Care provides in-home medical and non-medical care and offers case management services to clients. He often refers clients needing to stretch their dollar to CareConnect for grocery assistance or help installing grab bars, services that keep people in their homes and out of institutions.
"It's all about aging in place. It's all about independence," Stork said.
Businesses interested in connecting with the nonprofit can visit the CareConnect website at careconnect.org.
CareConnect programs help Helen Cartin, 83, maintain her sense of self-determination. The Longmont resident began using CareConnect three years ago. Vision loss made grocery shopping frustrating.
"Have you ever stood in front of a bank of Campbell's soup? All I can see is red and white," Cartin said. Now she calls her order in to CareConnect on Monday and her groceries are delivered by a volunteer on Tuesday. Cartin also uses CareConnect's transportation services to make doctor's appointments.
"I maintain a semblance of independence that means a lot," Cartin said.
Lack of mobility such as Cartin's can create a sense of isolation for aging adults, Ditty said. CareConnect volunteers and services help alleviate that. The services Cartin received freed time for quality interaction when her children and grandchildren drop by rather than monopolizing family visits with grocery shopping and doctor trips.
"That's our business: to help people who feel like they are alone know that they are not," Ditty said.
Cartin said she feels blessed by the kindness, respect and personal interaction she sees in the CareConnect volunteers with whom she's interacted. She said they always brighten her day.
"It's just like a blast of sunshine when they walk through the door with those bags of groceries."