Making a Difference in Seniors’ Lives and Your Community
Our senior population has been one of the hardest hit demographics during the pandemic. Learn how organizations like Senior Services of Southwest Michigan are filling the gaps in terms of providing food, home repairs and even pet services during these times and always–and how you can get involved with your time or money.
00:06 Lynne Jarman-Johnson: Money, I’m Home! Welcome in. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union. From finance to fitness, we help you, and all of us, succeed every single day here in West Michigan, Michigan and beyond. We have a wonderful guest today that really is focusing in on something that is near and dear to our hearts at Consumers Credit Union, and that is Senior Services. Consumers has many core charities that we volunteer for, and we also give our time, talents and treasure. Senior Services is one of our biggies. We are so proud to volunteer every single week with Meals on Wheels. That is part of what Senior Services is all about, and there’s so much more which we’re going to tell you about. We also have many of our organizational leaders that are serving on boards for Senior Services, and every time that I have the opportunity to connect, you find out, number one, something new, but you also find out how much passion there is in our organization to serve and to serve senior leaders. Susan Terranella is with us today. She’s the marketing and communications manager for Senior Services of Southwest Michigan. Susan, thanks so much for being with us today.
01:18 Susan Terranella: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me. I’m excited.
01:21 LJJ: So, Susan tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became involved with Senior Services.
01:26 ST: Sure, I have been with Senior Services just for about the past six months as the marketing and communications manager as you stated. And I am local to Kalamazoo. I grew up here. I went to Western, a proud Bronco graduate.
01:43 LJJ: Go Broncos.
01:45 ST: Yes, definitely. I’m actually getting ready to move my son into the dorms at Western this week, so starting a new generation of Broncos as well.
01:53 LJJ: Oh, that’s awesome.
01:54 ST: Yeah, so excited about that. As far as my career goes, I have about 20 years of experience in marketing and communications. I’m a previous entrepreneur and owned a business in downtown Kalamazoo. I feel really passionate about this community. And found myself in a position of looking to change where my career path went and found myself at Senior Services, where I’m able to really connect my passion for the community of Kalamazoo and the surrounding area, and just enriching the services that we have to offer for the people in this community. So I’m excited to start this journey and be on this journey with Senior Services as we really approach some pivotal moments in our organization and our agency, and I’m looking forward to sharing with you what it is that we’ve been up to.
02:50 LJJ: Well, that’s awesome, Susan. I think one of the things that I’d like to touch on right off the gate here is COVID-19.
02:57 ST: Sure.
02:58 LJJ: And we know that the statistics show how much peril, if you don’t mind me using that word, older adults can be in regarding the pandemic. There’s also the conversation about socializing and being with others and how that is impacted. This must really have impacted your organization, too.
03:22 ST: Yeah, I think it’s the question that everybody starts off with in personal conversations and professional conversations, you know, how has this pandemic impacted, what it is that everybody is doing on a day-to-day basis? And even though our missions all remain the same, it’s how we go about fulfilling those missions that have kind of changed with this pandemic. We have seen a huge increase in need in a lot of our services, because the aging population is so impacted by what’s happening. People who are home-bound, people who rely so heavily on the resources that not only we, but other community partners provide. I think our most well-known program is probably our Meals on Wheels, part of our nutrition program, and we have seen a drastic increase in need from that program. So that’s been a big impact, something that’s been impacted greatly. So, we’ve really adjusted in how we are approaching a lot of our programs, not being able to see people in person and limiting contact with them in doing so. For instance, with our Meals on Wheels program, one of the great things about Meals on Wheels is that it’s a way for people to have someone come and visit them each and every day when their meals are being delivered. And unfortunately, we’re not able to have that point of contact. At this time, we are doing contactless delivery for our Meals on Wheels program.
04:57 ST: But it’s still a way for someone to maybe get a wave through the door or a hi through a doorway when their volunteer is coming to deliver their meal. We are obviously wearing face masks, taking extra precautions with wearing gloves and taking temperatures and just kind of the standard things. But we’ve also expanded some of our programming. Our Telephone Reassurance Program is something that’s new. And initially it was started with funding that was supposed to be for in-person contact, where our volunteers can connect with someone from the aging population and be able to visit with them on a weekly basis. And because of COVID, we had to shift the kind of the delivery of that since we are trying to avoid being in spaces with one another. So we created the Telephone Reassurance Program, which is a great way for people who are feeling lonely and who are in need with to have that personal contact over the phone, that they can sign up, or have a loved one or a representative sign them up, to receive phone calls from our volunteers where they just get to connect with somebody on a personal level, on a weekly basis, and just kind of chat about what’s going on in their lives. It can be something of concern; it can just be standard conversation that we all like to have with one another. So that’s been one of the programs that we’ve really expanded here since COVID started.
06:32 LJJ: What a great idea. How has that been received?
06:36 ST: It’s been received really well. We’ve gotten a lot of volunteers. We have a steady uptick the more that we have the opportunity to talk about the program itself. We’ve seen a steady increase in participation, both on a volunteer level, as well as a client level. So, we’ve really, really appreciated the increase and willingness of folks to be volunteers and help support our programming through this pandemic.
07:08 LJJ: I’ll tell you, one of the things that I really love reading about, what your mission is all about is the fact that there are many people who they might be able to volunteer dollars to help support Meals on Wheels; they may not be able to do the time that it can take. We’re honored to be able to do that every single week at Consumers with you. But one of the things that I found very interesting was the services that focus on homeowners and/or people who are looking for event catering to actually help Senior Services by utilizing you. Tell us about that.
07:45 ST: Yeah, it’s such a great and unique way for people to give back. So the way that it works is that it’s a fee… They are fee-for-service programs that all of the proceeds go right back into funding for those who are at need. So, we have our standard home repair services, our volunteer Tuesday Toolmen who go in using… To people’s homes in the community to do basic home repair services. These can be anything from putting weather stripping in, installing a grab handle, doing some minor plumbing repairs and doing larger projects like ramp building and installing a hot water heater or something of that nature where we’re using grant dollars to do those activities. But where this fee-for-service comes into play is someone like myself or yourself and you have a minor home repair where you would typically maybe call a handyman or have somebody in your neighborhood that is willing to come help you for a low cost amount, that you can actually hire Senior Services home repair to come and do those projects for you, and the fee that you pay outside of the cost obviously to directly repair whatever it is that’s happening, all of the additional funds go directly back into our home repair program to help us increase the people that are at need, who are in need, to be able to service even more people.
09:31 ST: So, you’re getting your need met as far as getting something fixed in your home, and you’re also able to give back at the same time. The same thing goes for our catering. Our Generations Catering program is all made from scrap. It is the same food that we, nutrition that we provide to our Meals on Wheels clients and our food for all clients. Everything is made from scratch. Everything is nutritious, and you can get your business luncheon, you can get your event catered. And I know that those kinds of things are really limited right now, but open houses, weddings, any kind of social gathering where food would be required, you can actually hire Generations Catering to do that, and all of the proceeds again go right back into the programming where we’re able to feed more at-risk clients with those proceeds.
10:32 LJJ: That is just a great concept, and it really opens up the doors for people to be able to help Senior Services. Tell us a little bit about the future,. What you’re looking at?
10:42 ST: Sure, it’s a crazy time reflecting on COVID, and you just like any other non-profit or any federal or state reliant programs, our funding is kind of up in the air right now. Everybody is having budget cut and sources for funding are getting more and more limited, so, although we haven’t seen huge drastic cuts yet, our funding for our next fiscal year is somewhat up in the air. So, we are really looking to this community and the public to really step up as they have always done and support us through their volunteer hours, support us through donations. Senior Services has been in this community for nearly six years, and we started with our nutrition program and Meals on Wheels, and we’ve grown to have over 20 programs. And all of those programs are so reliant on our volunteers, and I cannot express enough and express our gratitude to this community for the people who take the time to give back and service the population that we serve.
11:58 ST: Everything from our MMAP program, which is the Medicare Medicaid Assistance Program, where we help people travel through and navigate that very complex program and what’s the best fit for them. A lot of our experts in that are volunteers who are highly trained to understand the programs and be able to answer questions and be experts for people who are looking for answers. Everything from that to our Meals on Wheels program, to our Tuesday Toolmen program, who are a great bunch of mostly men who are giving their time to do those home repair services. We have our volunteer services programs where we service things like our Telephone Reassurance Program, like I mentioned before, and also our Pet Food Bank. I love this program. I know that animals are near and dear to a lot of people’s hearts and really fill that gap of loneliness for people who are aging or who have a disability. And sometimes, it’s hard to feed your pet when you’re in that situation, and we have a Pet Food Bank, where we get amazing people to donate pet food supplies and kitty litter, where our client can then reach out to us to fill that need when they find that they can’t feed their furry friend.
13:27 LJJ: Susan, there’s just so many opportunities. What’s the best way that our listeners can help?
13:33 ST: I think that the best way is to hop on our website, take a look at all of the services that we provide, and see where you find your passion and where you connect. If it’s connecting with people on a one-on-one basis, if it’s making a donation, if you don’t have a lot of time and it is something monetary, there’s a way that people can just sign up online to volunteer. You can donate online as well. Take a look at the stories that we’re sharing, and I think that’s really the easiest way. Follow us on social media to see what it is that we’re doing on a day-to-day basis to connect with this community. And I think the most important part of giving back is where your passion lies and where your heart is, and we have so many ways to connect with the community and this population that we serve, and I think that’s a great start. Our customer service team is, even though we’re closed to the public, our doors are closed to the public, our customer service team is still here every day answering the phone and determining the best route for people to help us out and fill those needs.
14:46 LJJ: Well, Susan, I’ll tell you what, we are so proud to be able to support Senior Services of Southwest Michigan. I know that if there’s a Senior Services in your area and you’re listening, please do us a favor and reach out. Now is the time, more than ever, that is needed, not only because of the pandemic, but also because it helps us. If we’re in our homes and we’re not able to do things, there’s ways that you can volunteer. So, Susan, thanks so much for sharing your story.
15:16 ST: Well, I just want to say thank you again for the opportunity, and thank you to Consumers Credit Union for being such a strong supporter with their volunteerism, board officers and board and committee members that donate their time to make us successful. I appreciate this opportunity to share our story.
15:36 LJJ: Well, thank you so much. And Susan, I know that you guys are also a very wonderful business partner with us, and we just love to share the story and also the journey of success. So thank you so much.
15:49 ST: You’re very welcome, thank you.
15:51 LJJ: Lynne Jarman-Johnson, Consumers Credit Union: Money, I’m Home. Thank you so much, Jake Esselink, for your editing skills. If you have a topic you’d like, just send it our way and we will make sure we get in touch with those experts that you’d like to hear. And we will see you next week. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson, Money, I’m Home!