Judy and Mike Canning said establishing a neighborhood care service in Washington, D.C., wasn't without its struggles.

Judy and Mike Canning said establishing a neighborhood care service in Washington, D.C., wasn't without its struggles.

But a dedicated staff and large group of volunteers have helped keep Capitol Hill Village in business, serving about 390 people in the nation's capital, they said.

"The best possible advertising is when they say: 'My life has changed because of the Village,'" Mike Canning said.

The Cannings spoke Nov. 18 to the German Village Society's long-range planning committee, which is trying to form a similar organization in the community.

Still in fact-finding mode, the committee has looked at several successful models that provide services to people who want to age in their homes.

Capitol Village, a nonprofit group founded three years ago, serves an area of about 45,000 people, 13,000 of whom are older than 50 and 3,500 older than 55, Mike Canning said.

The couple said Capitol Hill Village started strong but has reached a plateau, serving 250 households, or 390 individuals.

"We all have friends who have not joined," Judy Canning said. "And it's a psychological thing: 'If I join, I'm too old.'"

Memberships are $530 annually for individuals and $800 for households. The annual budget is $200,000, some of which is paid by local grants. The money helps fund three staff members - an executive director, office manager and social worker - and professional services.

Most people seek transportation, but other help includes such services as gardening, tech help and routine maintenance, and most is provided by volunteers. Professional-service providers are routinely vetted, Mike Canning said.

But Capitol Hill has become more than an organization that provides trips to the grocery store and lawn-cutting services, he said. Many members find a social outlet through the group.

Capitol Hill does not place an age limit on members, nor does it place a cap on services, though some members require significantly more time than others, he said.

Carolyn McCall, who chairs the long-range planning committee, said the group hasn't established an organizational structure, such as scope of services, membership guidelines and funding. Still, the Cannings' visit shed some light on a complex subject, she said.

"I definitely felt it was insightful and really informative to hear from another community and neighborhood similar to German Village," she said. "Who knows how this model may apply to us or may not apply to us?

"But I think there are some really good lessons to learn from what they have done and what they have experienced."