Friday, March 13, 2009
The cacophony of need in our community is great. Each day we are inundated by the discordant voices of struggling community members, elected officials with grim budget news, or non-profits worried about keeping their doors open. Aside from walking blissfully through our days with our hands over our ears what else might we do?
I can’t help but think there is a silver lining in the dark cloud -an opportunity to re-affirm the purpose of community, to rise above the cacophony, neighbor to neighbor. Santa Cruz County is diverse and unique. Since moving here only a year and a half ago I have recognized a great pride. So many people seem to love where they live and are passionate about the quality of life that has been established. At local community meetings long-time residents proudly raise their hands to say they have weathered their days in Santa Cruz County. Many young people who grew up here seem eager to find ways to stay home rather than following their national counterparts in the rush off to new communities; and as stated in today’s Sentinel, The independent research group, Gallup Poll -- says residents of Scotts Valley, the San Lorenzo Valley and parts of Mid-County are the happiest in the nation.
If we love the quality of life that has been established then we can choose to sustain the foundations that make Santa Cruz County a welcoming community. We can choose to see tight financial times as a golden opportunity to step outside of ourselves and more effectively collaborate. Barn roofs were not raised by individuals standing alone on their porches calling out for help but by community members stepping up to help one another.
Everywhere we look there are challenges to be met and so many programs working to meet these challenges. As budgets continue to decline, we can choose to step forward to shore up these programs through difficult financial times. Each of us has the capacity to give, whether it is of our finances or our time.
The Human Race Walkathon and Fun Run is one great platform that comes to mind where community members and local agencies can stand together. The Race provides the opportunity for over 150 non-profits, schools, and churches to step out collectively to ask for community support. This year’s race will happen on May 9th, 2009 at Natural Bridges State Park and includes a complimentary breakfast and BBQ, music along the course, a costume contest, and prizes. All community groups and agencies are welcome. Find out more.
We can also choose to give of our time and talent. Do you know which community agencies support the causes you care about? Take the time to find out and considering giving your time. By volunteering you can be difference in keeping the doors to community open. Find out more about agencies looking for volunteers by visiting www.1-800-volunteer.org
Together we can break through the discord and sustain the community we care about.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Last week while researching housing issues for seniors for an upcoming press release I was struck by the extraordinary burdens seniors are currently facing in maintaining their homes and livelihood.
Seniors have the highest home-ownership rates of any age group. With rates of nearly 80%, seniors age 65 and over account for about one-quarter of all homeowners. Many seniors associate their homes with their independence, livelihood, or connection to community and define their homes as their single most important asset.
According to the Senior Economic Security Index (SESI), a new research project developed by The Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University and Demos, 1 in 3 senior households have no money left after meeting essential expenses.
It is clear that as food prices, healthcare, utilities, and taxes continue to rise many senior homeowners are struggling and are forced to make the unfortunate choice between meeting basic needs and necessary safety home repairs. At present only half of the disabled seniors over age 65 have the home modifications they believe they need. This leaves thousands of seniors without handrails, grab bars, ramps, elevators or stair lifts, and other structural modifications necessary to live safely in their homes.
In looking for light within the gloom of these headlines, I turn to the stories of individuals who have stepped up to be the difference. It is heartening to know there are those among us who recognize a need and are willing to take action. The Santa Cruz County Sentinel, reported in yesterday's paper on a variety of local non-profits tackling issues for seniors. Indeed, we are fortunate to have such a vast array of programs supporting seniors in our community such as Meals on Wheels, Grey Bears, Senior Network Services, and the Transportation Program.
Behind each of these programs is a dedicated cadre of volunteers who believe that their actions can make a difference in the lives of struggling seniors.- Individuals who recognize giving one day of their time and talent might bring hope for a better day to another.
Program Coordinator Carol McGuire of the Volunteer Center program Helping Hands, knows her program simply could not exist without the willingness of volunteers. In the last year the program was able to offer safety related home repairs to 190 low-income senior homeowners because community members, local clubs, and area businesses came forward to donate supplies and over 500 volunteer hours to projects ranging from installing hand-rails or grab-bars, to repairing broken steps. One group in particular, The Santa Cruz Rotary, has been a generous supporter for over 10 years. Each year they donate smoke detectors so that every helping hands home can be outfitted with a functioning detector.
While the headlines may be bleak and so many are struggling, I feel strongly that the enduring spirit of community is alive. Each day with every new volunteer that walks through the door, I am reminded that everywhere there is work being done to create change for the better.