German Village Gazette

After a month, Village Connections sees progress

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RYAN M.L. YOUNG/THISWEEKNEWS
Kim McLaughlin (far left), a physical therapist for Freedom Home Health, teaches volunteers with Village Connections how to assist seniors in and out of automobiles. Village Connections, an aging in place program in German Village, celebrated its one-month anniversary last week.McGlaughlin's presentation was in the German Village Meeting Haus Tuesday, Feb. 18.

A one-month anniversary isn't something that often receives plaudits, but for a German Village organization, it's a milestone worth celebrating.

Village Connections, the aging-in-place program based in German Village, hit the one-month mark Feb. 19.

"If anybody asked me about this a year or two ago I never would have thought about it," said member Carol Mullinax, who joined with her husband, Bob, after he was sidelined with some temporary illnesses.

Mrs. Mullinax, 64, said everyday tasks were getting harder to do around the house.

"It made me look toward the future," she said.

When Mr. Mullinax, 67, recovers, the couple plans to volunteer for the organization.

"The one thing we do know is we'd like to stay in our home," she said.

"I think German Village and other small communities have a tradition of neighbors helping neighbors and I think Village Connections I formalizing that."

It's been a revealing period for the fledgling group, which is been in the works for several years, said Katie White, executive director.

Even during one of the coldest, snowiest winters in recent history, Connections has hit an important benchmark, signing up 25 members who pay $500 per individual, or $750 per household, in annual dues.

That's significant, White said, because the national average for senior villages across the United States is 0.5 percent in the service area in the first year.

There are 4,800 eligible seniors living in the Village Connections boundaries -- German Village, Merion Village, Schumacher Place, Brewery District, downtown and a sliver of the Short North -- meaning the group needed only 24 to join, White said.

"We really had high hopes," she said.

"Our goal was to have 50 members in the first year."

White lauds the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging and Franklin County Office on Aging -- each giving Connections $30,000 in grant money for 2014 -- for their assistance in getting Connections started.

"In Columbus we have a really good collaborative aging network where we really want to support each other and we don't see it as competition," White said.

"We see the need is high."

Naturally there were some surprises, such as the volume of snow removal calls.

"This year we were more reactive because we started in the middle of winter," she said.

"Next year we're going to have to be more proactive."

And some things were expected, such as high volume of calls for transportation. White estimates that one member already has received $250 worth of transportation services.

Of the members, a third are social -- or "supportive" -- members, meaning they pay the full amount to join and their memberships are tax-deductible, White said.

However, they don't partake in any of the services, they don't have access to volunteers or vetted service providers.

Connections has been fortunate in recruiting 20 volunteers, White said.

Volunteer Heidi Drake, a retired nurse who lived in German Village, said she sees it as paying forward.

"I believe in taking care of the community I live in," said Drake, 61, "but I want to make sure it's happy and healthy when I need it."

Pam Bentley, another volunteer, said she decided to get involved in Village Connections after attending the "Senior Stretch" class in Schiller Recreation Center.

"I have met so many people, incredible people," said Bentley, 65.

"Some are older than me and made me realize they may need a little more help staying in their homes longer."

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