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Community Neighbors Helping

This is a menu of the topics on this page (click on any): Project summary, name and brief description    project history, and how it is being sustained    partnerships and collaborations involved    qualitative and quantitative outcomes in past 3 years    primary contact(s) for the project   .

Project summary, name and brief description

_"Community Neighbors Helping" began in 1999, targeting minority senior citizen residents living in one of the poorest areas of Delray Beach. The "grass roots helpers" host weekly meetings with elderly residents to encourage social interaction. Invited guest speakers assist in promoting wellness through education on prevention and screenings for eyes, blood pressure, diabetes, breast cancer, heart and prostate diseases. They provide basic services of food and clothing, transportation to medical appointments, grocery and drug stores. They plan and carry out field trips introducing seniors to people and places outside of their traditional environment. The program operates and depends solely on donations from neighborhood residents; goods supplied from Publix Supermarkets, nonprofit partners and assistance with program planning from the Mae Volen Senior Center. Community Neighbors Helping focuses on the at-risk elderly population, normally overlooked, who exemplify the "village concept" and have contributed and nurtured many successful children into adulthood.

project history, and how it is being sustained

Elderly African-Americans, especially the economically disadvantaged, are less likely to engage in social activities outside of church. In this neighborhood, the elderly are often victims of criminal activity. They are literally "held hostage" in their homes, afraid to come out after dark, afraid to leave their homes for any length of time during the day because of the number of break-ins and property thefts. Family members struggling with addictions and personal crisis have also victimized them.

The lead organizer, Edith Thompson, moved by her memories of the "village" that nurtured her as she grew up in this poor neighborhood, wanted to give something back to the community that had given so much to her. She recruited volunteers, including her elderly parents, and began working with seniors. The goal is straightforward, "to make a difference, offering encouragement, education and assistance with basic needs, and to get this group of residents involved so that our current generation can benefit from their life experiences and wisdom." The result has been the expansion of programs to include interaction between the seniors, young adults and their grandchildren, which has brought the sense of "family" back into the community.

The project survives off of small donations from the neighborhood and the desire of those who are involved to make a difference. It is sustained by the expanded partnerships, the community being more aware and sensitive to the needs of our elderly residents, and understanding the benefits of senior citizen involvement. While the program is focused in a minority neighborhood, the support has become broad- based, crossing areas to include the church, businesses and corporations throughout the county. Community lobbying convinced the city of the need to convert the "Catherine Strong" building, named for Delray's first woman mayor, into an activity and service center for senior citizens.

partnerships and collaborations involved

Edith Thompson directs the grass roots initiative on a voluntary basis. The program uses space donated by a church, centrally located within the neighborhood, a short walk for a number of residents. She has aggressively recruited 20 residents, including youth, living in the southwest neighborhood to assist with the project. They have developed partnerships with six area Publix Supermarkets who provide bread and other bakery goods on a daily basis, all of which are picked up, stocked and distributed completely by these volunteers. The Mae Volen Senior Center, in the neighboring town of Boca Raton, provides technical assistance with planning and carrying out activities as well as transportation for residents for medical services. Mae Volen now sends their vans into Delray Beach and transport participants to their center once each month for social activities. Palm Beach Harvest, Inc., delivers supplies weekly to the church site that are donated by area restaurants; Farm Share of Dade County, delivers dry goods monthly. The food bank services have been extended to 300 families each day.

The program collaborate with MAD DADS, Inc., another grass roots organization, focused on youth and families, who regularly assist with activities planned for the elderly, sharing their staff and resources as needed. Every Monday evening, you will find 40-60 elderly residents gathered at the local National Church of God, listening to a lecture on wellness, discussing life experiences, sharing and caring for one another.

qualitative and quantitative outcomes in past 3 years

The program serves an average of sixty senior citizens, ranging from 60 to 95 years old and 300 families each week. Twenty-nine of the elderly participants are actively involved in their Homeowners Association, ten are active volunteers in the program itself and 100 percent of them participate in at least one social activity each month and the wellness screening programs. The medical education and screenings have increased their knowledge of preventive medicine. Participants are no longer afraid to share their issues and concerns with personal physicians. Forty percent of the participants are involved in other volunteer programs such as new church ministries, neighborhood initiatives and community-wide special event activities. This program assisted 500 families during the holidays with donations from Burdines Department store, Delray Police Department, TV Channel 12 and the Post Office Angel Tree project.

One of the best rewards came from a 73-year-old female participant after attending a cultural event. She stated this was the first time she had been afforded the opportunity to attend an "opera" and she "absolutely loved it." They exemplify the motto adopted by the over 1,000 senior citizen volunteers working with the Police Department, "We are not the lonely people who sit by the window watching the world go by." They have a useful purpose in life and have made a new commitment to keep busy instead of vegetating and growing old too soon.

The community has embraced the changes, recognizing our senior members are "Delray's Wisdom" and that they bring much in the way of integrity and leadership to the community as a whole. With increased confidence, they are expanding relationships with other cultures and getting involved in civic functions. They bring with them the most honored title, The Greatest Generation that has ever lived and the history to prove it.

primary contact(s) for the project

Edith Thompson, Organizer/Volunteer.

Bishop Leonard Josey, Pastor/Volunteer.

Marlene Josey, Program Volunteer National Church of God.

Bonnie Williams, Program Volunteer.

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