Hi, my name is Jill. I live in Solon, Iowa with a population of about 3000 people. The town of Solon is a very special place. We have a mix of Old Solon (people who have lived there for generations) and New Solon (new families moving to our town for our excellent schools and small-town caring environment). As a pharmacist in Solon, I had the opportunity to know and care for all of the townspeople, but always felt a special bond with the older folks in our community. I left my job in Solon for one with more flexibility for my family and my kids activites, but Solon never left my heart. Here's my story....
On March 14, 2018, my Dad died unexpectedly of a heart attack. He had finally beaten cancer after 5 years of chemotherapy and 2 stem cell transplants. He had the best attitude through it all and was an inspiration to all who knew him. He and my mom had just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in December 2017. They were inseparable, and she was the most amazing caregiver while he was fighting cancer. Since his passing, I have helped my mom with house and yard chores. On her birthday last year in June, I helped her organize and clean out her garden room. It was there where I first had the thought, "What do people do when they don't have family around to help them? Especially older people who aren't able to do the physical work they used to do."
This was the first idea I had for Solon Senior Support. I started researching about starting a local home care company, but soon realized that the hourly rate was well beyond what seniors in our town could afford. So I decided to start a volunteer organization that could assist the seniors in our community with home projects or yard work. I soon realized that one of the main components of the program had to be just providing companionship through visits.
The absolute best idea I had was to have the high school students in our community as part of the program. I had two Solon High School seniors help me with the planning and setting up the organization as part of their National Honor Society project. They were invaluable in their assistance and I couldn't have started it without their help! The high school students, Jenna and Tori, got experience in everything from legal aspects of starting a corporation, setting up a tax-exempt entity, purchasing liability insurance, creating policies and forms, and marketing and fundraising.
Solon Senior Support offers volunteer hours to high school students who are working toward a Silver Cord to wear at graduation, which signifies 125 hours of volunteer service during their 4 years in high school. We want to bridge the generations and build strong community bonds between young and old.
After months of planning and preparation, we were featured on the front page of our local newspaper, the Solon Economist, on March 14, 2019- one year to the date of my Dad's death. I was so proud to finally launch the product of months of planning and effort! We have had many hurdles to overcome, as there are not currently any small community- based elder programs to follow. We are forging our own path and hope to bring this idea to other communities in Iowa and beyond. We are neighbors helping neighbors. Everyone has something to offer to their community. Whether it's my Mom, baking treats to take on visits, or volunteers coming out on a hot day to help with yardwork, we all can make a difference to someone in need!
I am hoping to raise $2000, which is a rough estimate of our yearly expenses for liability insurance, a local phone number, background check website, and printing of our materials. I have big plans for our town and I'm hoping you can help me acheive them and expand them to other seniors!