RP, Cotati seniors can rely on Helping Hands
Volunteers take care of little home tasks senior citizens unable to perform for themselves
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By Kaydon Coburn  December 14, 2012 12:00 am

Fixing leaking sinks, changing light bulbs, installing smoke detectors, repairing decks and ramps, pulling weeds, and aligning closet doors off-track; these are tasks some seniors need help doing or are simply unable to do themselves.

“We advertised in the senior newsletter for a month or two and the calls started coming in. Most (seniors) call and ask, ‘Is this free? Is this real?’ It was crazy. The word spread like wild fire and we got all these calls,” says Jessica Schieberl, Community Services Specialist at the Rohnert Park Senior Center. “These are real folks that just need help.”

The Helping Hands Project is a free home repair program for senior citizens in Rohnert Park-Cotati. The program is now in its second year of existence and provides non-contractor home repairs inside and outside the residence for any eligible senior in need. The Helping Hands Project stemmed and was inspired from another Rotary Club in the area implementing the program.
The Helping Hands Project was then initiated by Schieberl and fellow Rotarian member Paula Reinhold.

“We were at a district assembly for Rotary, and someone was speaking about it (Helping Hands) and we thought, ‘We have great ideas and we can work together and create a program that is going to be successful,’” Schieberl said. “We’re going to take some of their concepts and pull some of our (Rohnert Park Senior Center) concepts and combine them and work to make this successful.”

The Helping Hands Project has more than 100 volunteers and sends out teams for repairs once a month.

The volunteers come from the local Rotary Clubs and a variety of local clubs and service organizations throughout the community. The amount of residences visited monthly can range from six to 17, according to Schieberl. The program currently averages about 10 homes a month.

A visit from a Helping Hands crew also gives the volunteers an opportunity to evaluate the quality of life in general (if additional services are necessary) once they visit the home.

“We do a check in and talk to them,” explains Schieberl.

Many of the volunteer crews are organized by fellow Rotarian Wulff Reinhold.

“A minimum team consists of a handyperson and a “social butterfly.” The team goes to the home and while the handyperson takes care of the requested tasks, the social person keeps the senior company and does a passive evaluation to determine if all of the senior’s needs are being met. If there are any other needs, we make referrals or notification to proper authorities,” Reinhold said.

According to Reinhold, the Helping Hand Project has currently served more than 105 residences.

The Helping Hands Project is run through the Rohnert Park Senior Center, in conjunction with the Rohnert Park-Cotati Rotary Club with support from the Rancho Cotati Rotary Club. The Rohnert Park-Cotati Rotary Club established and implemented the Helping Hands Project. The program is funded and sponsored by individuals and local business donations and is always accepting new donors. Schieberl acknowledges the Codding Foundation, Dale Knight Insurance and Paula Reinhold-Stearns Lending, Lora McAfee and True Value Hardware for their sponsorship.

“If it (work) requires a contractor; we can’t do it,” Schieberl said. If Helping Hands is unable to do the work they will refer the resident to other local repair programs that may be able to assist.

Those interested or would like more information on the Helping Hand Project can contact Schieberl at 585-6780, or call the Rohnert Park-Cotati Rotary Club; Rancho Cotati Rotary Club Helping Hands Hotline at 765-4898.

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