It’s Been 1,001? Really?

We had another successful Senior Safety Saturday yesterday, where 78 volunteers installed home safety and security items in 54 homes in which seniors live. I was humbled and rather amazed that someone counted the total number of homes where we have done these “safety makeovers” over the past 12 years. Adding yesterday’s homes to the total, we reached 1,001.

I thought we had been doing this work for about ten years, but someone reminded me that the first home that was counted in this twice-a-year project was my Mom’s. So we began this work before she died, and I had forgotten. I remember, though, that I had to do a “demonstration project” to show potential donors and skeptical seniors what the idea “looked like.” My Mom’s home was the “guinea pig” (demonstration case.) Bless her, she went along with a lot of my cockamamie ideas.

After a nice “rah-rah” kick-off, featuring a rather prominent local leader recognizing the contributions we received from business supporters that fund this effort, the volunteers fanned out. I was a “roving worker,” being called to locations where a volunteer encountered a problem, needed an extra pair of hands, or something delivered.

We had only one minor injury — a hammered thumb — but there are lots of sore backs, muscles, and tired bodies among all of us. Whew….

I wore my Station Boots, which remained comfortable all day long. My partner didn’t come with me. He decided to paint our upstairs hallway in our own home. He generally avoids crowds (defined as more people than just me.)

Toward the end of the day, I got a call from a volunteer with yet another problem. She couldn’t get an access door to a water heater closet open. I went over there, and we worked on it for a while, and finally it gave way. We lowered the water heater’s temperature setting to 120°F (49°C) which is what is recommended to avoid scalds. She said that she had been dropped off at this location by someone, so she asked me for a ride to staging area to turn her tools back in. She hopped in my truck.

When we returned to the staging area, it had been transformed with a big tent and picnic tables. There were hundreds of people there. I was completely astounded. Usually only about half the volunteers working that day come to the final event; some go home because they’re tired, or they volunteer for the morning shift only.

As my friend and I walked up to the staging area, the crowd broke out into loud, thunderous applause. My partner came out from behind a post and said, “I had nothing to do with this, but they wanted me to be here to celebrate with you.” Hanging onto his arm was my lovely 94 year-old aunt.

I saw among the crowd a number of seniors whose homes we had done work over the years. I saw some people who had volunteered on this project in the past. I recognized the faces of some donors who had supported us before, as well as currently. And there were some local elected officials and civic leaders there as well. Best of all, there were smiles on each and every face in the crowd. That made me so jazzed — to see so many happy people.

The party turned out to be a celebration of exceeding 1,000 homes that are now better lighted and more safe for seniors to continue to live independently. Honestly, I don’t deserve the credit. The donors and the volunteers made it all happen, especially my hyper-organized friend who does all the hard work of organizing the volunteers with the needs with the required supplies and tools.

I was emotionally fragile while hugging (or getting hugged) by everyone in sight, but I was holding myself together until someone presented me with a framed photo of me and my Mom (standing with our first donor). The photo was taken on the day of our first “Senior Safety Saturday” 12 years ago. I had totally forgotten that the picture had been taken. After being reminded that my Mom was the first “participant” in this event so long ago — when I saw that photo, I completely lost it. My partner stood by my side, handed me a tissue, and just held me until I recomposed myself. My aunt, bless her, was bewildered why I would be so emotional, but it sure was nice to have her there, to hold, to hug, to introduce to friends, and to share smiles.

Life is short: celebrate accomplishments of thriving with your neighbors and enjoying what life is all about, one day at a time.