Jewish Family Services

Prime Magazine – FOCUS

BY KELLY JO MCDONNELL

Everyone knows the saying “Home is where the heart is.” And no one understands this better than an aging adult, struggling to stay in the home they love. But there’s a program through the Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City (JFS) that under- stands how important the home is to aging adults.

Help@Home is a program JFS launched in 2008 which is popular with participants. Dawn Herbet, Director of Older Adult Initiatives for JFS, explained, “It’s a membership-based program which gives members access to community handymen, 24/7, to do minor home repairs, some chores in their home and computer troubleshooting. There’s also access to occupational therapists that come out once year to make sure our members’ homes are safe from falls and slips.”

Dawn explained that the agency’s mission has always been to support and strengthen the Jewish and whole community by providing essential programs and services for individuals and families cop- ing with crises and life’s everyday challenges. JFS was established in 1901 when five volunteer relief agencies united to legally incorporate themselves. The agency’s mission is to help others, regardless of race or religion. “We are open to the whole community,” stressed Dawn. “We work towards the Jewish value of tikkun olam, meaning ‘repairing the world.’”

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The popular program proves to be the missing safety net for many aging adults age 65 and older, or those with a disability. Over 90 percent of participants surveyed said the Help@Home program has allowed them to stay in their homes longer than they thought they could. “People just love the program, and it allows them to feel more independent,” explained Dawn, “They can remain in their homes they love, and have been in for many years. It gives them a feeling of security. They get to know the handymen, so it’s another measure of safety. They know who’s coming to their door.”

Services in the program include: minor home repairs; chore services; one-on-one computer troubleshooting; educational programs throughout the year; free membership in Johnson County Community College’s Brown & Gold Program; and a discounted monthly fee for Home for Life Solutions, an electronic safety and assurance service offered through John Knox Village.

Help@Home not only helps the participant, but also their ex- tended family. Program participants have someone they can call day or night, and it’s a relief for the family members who may be trying to care for their aging parents, as well as raising their own families. Dawn shared, “It offers peace of mind that we’re available 24/7, so anyone having a problem can call any time. And if there’s something going on in the home that’s beyond the scope of what we can do, we refer them to reputable contractors.”

Dawn said they are always looking to help others in the community who are wanting to age in place. There is a monthly fee for the program, but it’s based on a sliding scale. It can go as low as $5 a month to a maximum of $79 a month, depending on the household income. “There’s a very easy financial form to fill out and as soon as I get their paperwork back, I run the numbers and we see where they fall on the scale,” explained Dawn. The member can then use the service as many times a month as they need with no additional labor charges.

The program has one full-time staff person, and two part-timers. Help@Home also uses volunteers in the community to support their paid staff. Dawn said JFS is always on the lookout for more volunteers for Help@Home.

Another popular program that’s rewarding for volunteers is the JET Express volunteer driver program. This program, started in 2008, provides safe, personal, door-to-door transportation for adults age

The popular program proves to be the missing safety net for many aging adults age 65 and older. Over 90 percent of participants surveyed and evaluated said the Help@Home program has allowed them to stay in their homes longer than they thought they could.

65+. Members can use this service for rides to the doctor, dentist, hairdresser, grocery store or any activity which keeps members active and independent. Riders pay $2.50 each way, and rides are provided by volunteer drivers in their own vehicles.

“It has a huge impact on the rider, and the relationships that form between rider and driver are so amazing!” exclaimed Dawn. “The driver gets so much out of the experience. The JET Express program is also currently looking for more volunteers. “All volunteers must be 21 and older, have a clean driving record, and undergo a background screen and drug test,” explained Dawn. “There’s a training session and we reimburse 33 cents a mile. We have a web-based scheduling program which makes it very convenient for the driver to choose whatever ride they want, whenever they want, and volunteers can drive once a week or once a month.”

Dawn recently received a phone call from someone who had signed up for the Help@Home program. “I love it because I can hear the happiness people feel when they know they have someone they can depend upon. I hear their gratitude, and they’re genuinely appreciative. I feel like I’m doing something good for the community.”

“I hope these programs are available when I get to be that age!” enthused Dawn. p

For more information on JFS, call Dawn at 913-327-8239 or email dherbet@jfskc.org. You can also visit the JFS website at jfskc.org.

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