The first winter I was here in Vermont, February rolled around. I had a broken wrist (that happened in January), not enough work, and well…I thought I was going round the bend! I started crying at unexpected (and embarrassing) moments, and I couldn’t keep two thoughts in my head.
I came to find out that February and March are tough times around here. Not enough sun, too much yucky weather, not enough contact with other folks, etc. We’ve just been through nearly a year of this kind of isolation, and for most people, those who aren’t yet able to get a vaccine, this unnatural isolation continues. We are social animals, and part of living a full life involves interaction with fellow humans.
If you’ve been going stir crazy throughout the pandemic, take a moment to pause and realize that for elderly and housebound people, this is their reality even when there aren’t restrictions on getting out and about. Social isolation. I know I’ve written about it before, but it’s a biggie. Social isolation, i.e., not interacting with other people, is quite detrimental to our physical and emotional health. Research shows that social isolation can shorten a person’s life. Wow.
Here at Neighbor to Neighbor, we are doing our best to keep our care recipients engaged. That might mean sending out Valentine’s Day cards to them. It might mean bringing them a personalized birthday cake on their birthday. We know that the vast majority of our care recipients live alone and on very limited incomes. We are searching every day for ways to let them know we are here and we care about them. If you have a neighbor who lives alone, why not bring them a little bouquet of flowers from Shaw’s or a pint of ice cream. Anything. The smallest things often make the biggest difference in someone’s life. And it’s so easy.
No one can say that life is boring right now! So much has happened since we crossed over into 2021. For our care recipients, the vast majority of whom are over age 75, one of the new sources of anxiety is about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Folks over 75 are now eligible to get the vaccine, but the big question is HOW?
The country is experiencing communications problems with accurate information about the virus and now how to get the promising vaccines that have been developed in record time. As you can imagine, for elderly people, it’s even more confusing, and for housebound folks, even more so.
We are trying to keep up to date on the latest information coming from the state, and I will make an effort to keep updating our home page with information that I can verify as accurate.
It’s wonderful to see the light at the end of a (currently) very, very long tunnel. Hang in there, Friends.
Normally at this time of year, we would be in full swing with all thing PIE. We’d be running around in the pre-auction flurry, keeping track of the many layers that makes our major fundraising event happen. Instead, it is pretty darn quiet around the office right now. I receive an occasional phone call from a care recipient who needs so help with yard work or grocery shopping, but most I am here finalizing the capacity building project the Steering Committee and I took on in January to make sure that everything–from our mission statement to finances and fundraising capabilities–continue to be relevant to the work Neighbor to Neighbor is doing. I am happy to report that (as expected) we stand in good stead and that the organization we all love will be around for at least the next 15 years. Thank you for your continued support. We do all we can to make certain our care recipients know we are only a phone call away. Volunteers are writing notes and calling to check in, and both groups seem to be happy making those connections.
With Gratitude and wishes for continued health and well-being, Robin
We are deep into the “beautiful season” as I like to call it. The many shades and textures of green are almost overwhelming. There are lines in front of dairy bars (hopefully socially-distanced), and people are floating down rivers in inner tubes. Sounds like a typical Vermont summer…except for the socially-distanced part. That’s a giveaway. This is really NOT a normal summer in Vermont, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter. We are reeling from months of news coverage and personal stories about the COVID-19 pandemic. The economy is suffering, and most importantly, people are suffering. Our care recipients tend to be somewhat isolated to begin with, and the enforced isolation precipitated by the pandemic has made a less-than-ideal situation even worse.
Through a grant from the Hoehl Family Foundation, we’ve been able to donate $5,000 in food gift cards to our nearly 80 care recipients. I’ve received many sweet thank you notes in the mail and several phone calls, all with the same message: Thank you for noticing that we are still here. Our liability insurance makes it impossible for us to provide the services we normally do, most importantly transportation to appointments. It goes counter to the very idea of Neighbor to Neighbor. We are an organization to exists to help our care recipients in a number of different ways, and right now, we are grounded.
Everyone wants to know when we will start to give rides again and to hold our monthly social events. It’s frustrating for me as the executive director to have to hold steady to our limitations. Maybe more than anyone else, I want to get back to normal. I miss our care recipients, and I know they need to get places. As soon as we are able to start back up with our usual services, I will let you know. In the meantime, thank you for your ongoing support. Donations are gratefully accepted and help us keep the lights on here at the office. You can donate by clicking on the Donate tab above.
May you have a healthy, safe summer and take in the beauty of our green mountain state.
No pie auction for us this year. It’s anyone’s guess what life will be like come October, and it’s not a smart idea to go ahead with the months of planning required to pull off our major fundraising event.
A good part of our annual budget comes from that event. We are asking people to support Neighbor to Neighbor by making a donation to our COVID-19 emergency fund. Although we’re not providing rides at this time–in order to protect both our volunteers and our care recipients–we are checking in regularly with our care recipients. We have volunteers who are doing grocery shopping for elder neighbors and other volunteers who are making phone calls just to make sure they’re OK and that they’re not feeling completely forgotten.
I’ve written before about the negative results from social isolation, especially the elderly. VPR reported this morning that we will be socially-isolating through the summer, and for our care recipients, that is a very long time. If you can make a donation–in any amount–we would so appreciate it. I’m still here answering the phone and email (and completely socially-isolating, don’t worry!), and as you might guess, our expenses involved with keeping the office running have not dropped away. We still have to pay to keep the lights on.
We are committed to helping our elder neighbors during this crisis, and we thank you in advance for any assistance you might be able to give.
It’s hard to know exactly what to do. Do I maniacly buy toilet paper and have a throw-down in the hand sanitizer aisle in Shaw’s? Should I be worried about my son’s emotional health because his college has closed down and he may be home for his final term in college before he–maybe–graduates in June?
We work with elderly, sometimes rather fragile, people. We have wonderful volunteers who want to do something to help. How do I put them together in a way that keeps everyone safe and not stir-crazy? Imagine that you live alone on a little dirt road. It’s isolating to begin with, and now you can’t even go to the grocery store without worrying that you will contract the coronavirus. Do our care recipients have enough medications? Is their insurance going to cover two months’ worth?
Honestly, I don’t know. We’re all winging it, aren’t we. If you have free time and want to buy groceries for our care recipients, let me know. If you’d like to make a contribution so care recipients have enough money to pay for food and medicine, use the Donate tab in the menu and make a contribution. One hundred percent of your donation will go directly to our elder neighbors, guaranteed.
If you know of an elder who lives alone, give them a call to check in. Buy some supermarket flowers, ring their doorbell, and make their day. Everything we love about living in a small town–our connections to our neighbors, the beautiful places to walk, the compassion we have for one another–is right here around us.
Be well. Do good work. Stay in touch.
It’s not really a debate. It’s more of a “can we really do this again” kind of discussion. We’re a tiny crew here, and to pull off an event like the pie auction is a massive amount of work. As you might guess, there are many, many layers and details involved in making it happen. We rely on volunteers, both inside and outside of our Neighbor to Neighbor family to put in the hard work and time commitment needed. Are you an events maven? Is it your life’s mission to help a wonderful nonprofit in rural Southern Vermont create a memorable and–let’s point out the elephant in the room–money-making event? Do you love a good spreadsheet and a clipboard? If so, WE WANT YOU.
Seriously. I know that people really enjoyed our event last year. People are still coming up to me in the grocery store and bookstore with a smile and a “I can’t wait until the next pie auction!” look in their eyes. We are trying to decide what the plan is and if we can do it again and remain sane. We need to make a decision soon because the work starts in March for our event in October.
If you can commit to helping us in October, please leave a comment here or use the Contact Us tab. We love our community. We love our care recipients. That is where our true work lies…but we also LOVE PIE. Check back to see what we decide, and as always, thank you for supporting Neighbor to Neighbor. rg
You may have heard Govenor Phil Scott’s address about the state of the state recently. He mentioned that Vermont has 30,000 more residents over the age of 65 than it did in 2000. That’s a lot of folks, given that only 600,000 people live in our state. And in Bennington County, where we work, the population of residents over age 65 is nearly 30%.
As those of us in the Baby Boomer generation continue to age and retire, that number will only increase. We know that young people are moving OUT of the state, not into it. Less than 1,000 people moved to Vermont in 2019. Those are the numbers, and they are not encouraging.
I’m happy to report that along with the growing number of elderly residents in the Northshire, the number of volunteers working for Neighbor to Neighbor is also increasing. That is a trend we hope to see continue. People have walked into the office and volunteered to volunteer on the spot. I attribute that to our efforts in the past two years to get our name and our work out into the community as much as possible. One function of the pie auction–besides raising money and eating a lot of pie!–is public awareness. We are the pie auction people, and while that sounds cute, it gets people talking about us, and that’s what we want.
The more people who know about Neighbor to Neighbor, the better. In your daily intereactions, you may come across people who could either use our help or who might be able to help as volunteers. Please continue to spread the word. You are the best advertising we could ask for.
Last night’s crazy windstorm blew down the rest of the leaves, and as I drove to work this morning, darting around small fallen branches and through “hojarascas” (“leaf storms” in Spanish), I realized we are in the transition place between the bounty of summer and fall and the quiet world of winter.
My ideal winter day goes something like this: I sit in my toasty house with my dog, Red. We make a fire and settle down on the couch to nap and read and write (actually, Red can’t do either of those things, but he makes a champion feet-warmer). I may be alone, but I don’t feel lonely…and not just because I have a dog. I know I have friends in town and an office to go to on Monday morning. I have connections to the community.
For many of our care recipients, they are alone in their homes and lonely. The ties they have are broken because they can no longer drive or walk to town to buy groceries or chat with a merchant. Their companion may be a TV or a radio rather than a loved one or family member. This is where Neighbor to Neighbor comes in.
We are a tiny, local nonprofit. We are not affiliated with any government organzation or private agency. We are responsible for finding our own sources of funding via grant writing, fundraising events, corporate donations, and, primarily, through individual donations. Please consider making a gift to Neighbor to Neighbor. Your gift allows us to further our mission of helping Northshire elder neighbors. If you have time to give, please contact the office and find out how you can become a valued member of the Neighbor to Neighbor volunteer crew.
We need you, and we thank you.
Our second annual Pie Auction was a great success! I believe people had a good time, and I know that they came out to support Neighbor to Neighbor. We had delicious food provided by local businesses and farms, wonderful sponsors, and pie lovers galore!
We are always looking for ways to finance this tiny nonprofit. We are not affiliated with any other entity, governmental or private. There is just one Neighbor to Neighbor, and we are responsible for finding ways to keep this operation afloat.
My sincere thanks to everyone who continues to support the important work we do. Muchisimas Gracias!