Work Booted for Senior Safety Saturday

Twice each year, I am involved in a community project that I organized almost 20 years ago. We call the project now: “Senior Safety Saturday.”

For the past two months, I have been engaged in significant fundraising, while two senior pals recruited volunteers and reached out to fellow seniors who live in older homes that usually require repairs or modifications to make them more “senior friendly” and safe.

I am happy that once again, 59 seniors living in 47 homes (condos and houses) are now safer. We installed…

… carbon monoxide detectors; replacement smoke alarms (for alarms more than 10 years old, they must be replaced); grab bars in bathrooms and kitchens; non-slip floor mats; and stronger lighting in key places (usually the path between a bedroom and bathroom so seniors do not trip or fall at night.)

I have turned over the bulk of the organization for this project to two senior pals who do most of the advance organizing work. The materials that we install or require to make safety modifications are paid for by donations. This year, I raised just over $12,000 to pay our expenses for supplies and insurance. Man, the insurance rider for this one-day event is expensive! I also got a well-known company that makes donuts to donate 14 dozen, plus 30 gallons of coffee, so the team of 120 volunteers were well fueled!

Leaders from our community came to the project kick-off. They accepted a fake “check” from our primary sponsor and we thanked them for their ongoing support. I say “fake check” because the primary sponsor, a building supplies retailer, actually gave us $8,000 in store credit which we applied toward purchase of supplies we required. That is much easier to manage since we do not have to exchange money or use a charge card. The donor keeps an accurate accounting for us, which is easily followed during regular audits.

The volunteers fanned out to pre-identified homes and made each home safe for its occupant(s). I worked with five men (including 3 off-duty firefighter pals) to remodel a kitchen for a senior who is confined to a scooter-type wheelchair. We lowered the kitchen countertops with requisite plumbing and electrical work to do that. We also lowered cabinets so they were reachable from chair level. We replaced this senior’s cooktop with one that she bought that was made specifically for someone to be able to reach at chair height. We also installed a single oven below a counter so she could reach it. It was a lot of work, and I was thrilled that the six of us could do that entire kitchen remodel in just one day.

What did my spouse do? Well… he’s not one for doing construction. Instead, he brought us supplies, tools, snacks, lunch, and drinks throughout the day. He also did most of the cleanup work, saving us that hassle. He left the place cleaner than we found it!

Overall, a great day. Firefighter booted for a good cause — making seniors safe in the homes they live in.

Life is short: enjoy contributing labor and expertise for your neighbors.