Ten years ago, after more than a year of meetings, intense research, visits and interviews at senior centers, and discussions with town officials, our group was poised to embark on an ambitious project – the Town of Montgomery Seniors Independence Project.
Who’s in our group? An amazing assortment including public officials, representatives of government and private agencies, local seniors, and professionals, all of whom were dedicated to the goal of aiding seniors to remain in their homes and stay with us in the community. For us, this was key not only for assisting seniors but also for uplifting the community by keeping their great wisdom and experience right here.
What we finally decided upon to make this a reality was a partnership. As an official Town of Montgomery committee, we believed that we would have sufficient credibility to attract local volunteers and for seniors to feel safe enough to avail themselves of their help. Who would have the knowledge and experience to train these volunteers, do background checks and take care of all those specific skills to make this smoothly operational? This is where the partnership came in. We were fortunate enough to have representatives from Jewish Family Services (JFS) among our original group – one of the premier organizations for training and screening volunteers through their Friendly Visitor Program. With JFS as our partner, we could hit the ground running.
And so we did. Before we knew it we were recruiting volunteers and they were helping seniors – who we have since referred to as “Neighbors” in our town.
And we were both pleased, and frankly, amazed at the positive reaction we received for what we considered a relatively straightforward and simple plan to aid those around us. There were stories in the local paper, in the Record and magazines and on the TV and radio. We were invited to speak at a large retirees event on what they called “The Montgomery Model” for aging in place. But it was at our first Volunteer Appreciation Dinner where a comment by one of our Neighbors really struck home. She said, “Without TOMSIP I could not have stayed in my home.” That, to us, was the measure of our success.
And, over the years, there are numbers go along with that success. In ten years, with the great support of the Town Supervisor and the Town Board, we have helped over 184 of our Neighbors in the Town of Montgomery a total of 10,663 times with 138 volunteers.
If the Town had to pay for those services it would have cost $266,650. But, because TOMSIP is volunteer driven, the annual costs, including one part-time employee coordinator, has been around $16,000 or only one-tenth of one percent of the Town budget. What a value for our seniors.
When they say imitation is the best form of flattery, we have been replicated by several municipalities who have started their own version of TOMSIP. But flattery is not what we are looking for. The goal is for many, many towns and villages to take the time and the miniscule investment to show that they too care enough about their seniors. We have already laid down the ground work so the new ones can already hit the ground running. The cost savings are obvious but it is the benefits to seniors, their caregivers, the municipalities, and the county as a whole which is invaluable.
Bottom line is that there is no reason why every single municipality in our area should not have its own TOMSIP. For help starting your own, call 845-457-4138 or 845-341-1173 x313.