The ice storm and power outage last winter exposed a need in East Lansing. Many seniors are physically unable to shovel their sidewalks and avoid receiving a ticket, and lack the means to pay others to remove snow and perform other small homeowner tasks. Seniors are also at risk during a power outage, or extreme cold weather, as they may not be able to ask for the help they need relative to maintaining health services. This need is being addressed by a variety of helpful residents.
As a way to help the elderly, frail, and sick residents of East Lansing, Jim Cuddeback started a volunteer snow shoveling service last winter via his email newsletter Public Response. A group of volunteer responders were identified, and residents were encouraged to call if they needed help. While ten volunteers were signed up, very few requests for help were received.
That program has been improved and expanded this winter, with Kelly Arndt at the Hannah Senior Center fielding the calls at 517-333-2580, ext. 6958 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kelly is able to connect those in need with local volunteers to provide the help needed. MSU’s Community Relations Coalition (CRC) is also involved, with student volunteers available to help. Cuddeback’s wife Nancy says “once the city had a ‘Chore Service’, but that was lost due to budget cuts.” She adds that the real goal of this program is to encourage neighbors to watch out for neighbors, including students looking out for their elderly neighbors.”
Gloria Taylor has been an East Lansing resident since 1976. She is retired, very independent, but needs some help because her children do not live in the area. “I’m used to doing things myself, but I’m not fast enough to keep up with the City action regarding having sidewalks cleared quickly” Taylor said. Two weeks ago when it snowed, Taylor found Nancy and Jim Cuddeback shoveling her sidewalk. She thinks a neighbor gave her name to the Cuddebacks. Taylor added “They were so prompt in clearing my snow, and it made me, as well as my children who worry about me, happy.”
Hannah Senior Center’s Arndt says “there are a variety of resources we may use to address the needs of area seniors when it comes to chores or odd jobs around the home depending upon their situation. Many of our clients are able to pay for the service, but finding someone may be a hardship. We can help as a clearing house for community resources.” Arndt may access neighborhood associations as many of them have been helpful in this regard. Some even have lists of young volunteers in their neighborhoods, and for a minimal fee the youth can help with this kind of thing.
The Prime Time Senior Program also maintains a list of supportive services offered by local businesses and independent contractors that have been referred by seniors and screened, as well as its own list of screened volunteers. Arndt adds “we are looking for residents, especially MSU and East Lansing High School students, who will submit to a brief background check and then offer volunteer help to East Lansing seniors. We call this the ‘adopt a grandparent’ program.”
For larger jobs, residents can ‘Hire a Spartan’ thru the MSU placement office at 517-355-9510. Job requests will be posted on the MSU website. Arndt hopes that all this activity will enhance people’s awareness of their neighbors who could use a periodic wellness check, not just during the winter months but all year long.