It’s hard to put 2012 in perspective just a few days after 27 people were gunned down in Connecticut (including 20 six and seven year olds), not to mention the dozens of Chicago children killed by violence every year. We start to feel like violence is all around us. I’m sure I’m not the only parent who held my child a little tighter this weekend and wondered what kind of world I was leaving her. It is easy to feel helpless and hopeless when confronted with such evil.
But, every time I feel that hopelessness, I find that volunteering provides a sure remedy. Seeing our volunteers in action reminds me that there is so much good in the world. This Saturday a group of volunteers shepherded dozens of children through the Museum of Science and Industry’s Christmas Around the World exhibit. Others cooked breakfast and played bingo with low-income seniors. On Friday, a group from Discover made blankets for homeless shelters. All over the city, hundreds of volunteers came together in service this weekend.
Our volunteers do more than educate our children, reduce isolation and depression among seniors, feed the hungry and clean up our schools and parks. Every time you volunteer, you create community. And that community gets bigger and stronger every time you join a project. They and them become we and us.
We is a powerful word. WE make a difference. They sit at home and wonder why our schools are failing. We get off our butts and read to children from May Elementary in Austin, helping eight year olds learn to love reading. They look at a vacant lot and shake their fists at the trash. We gather together and turn emptiness into a learning garden like we did at Schmid Elementary in Pullman. They shake their heads at a senior citizen holding up the bus. We laugh and cry at senior breakfast, building friendship and community instead of isolation and depression.
As 2012 comes to an end, I thank all of you for your service to Chicago this year. I urge all of you to re-commit to volunteering in 2013 so we can continue to build a stronger Chicago.
Yours in service,
PS We always welcome your support as a volunteer AND as a donor. Please make a contribution to our work. Your $25 donation buys bingo prizes for senior breakfast club or art supplies for an after school program. Without your time and/or financial support, our programs simply would not exist for the over 270 community organizations we partner with every year.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This Thanksgiving I led a project at a Chicago Housing Authority building for low income, independent living seniors. I knew I wanted to do this because A) it would give me something fun to do with my family who always volunteers with me (sometimes whether they want to or not), B) I love going to this particular building to volunteer, and C) I honestly didn’t have very much planned for Thanksgiving myself. My extended family is mostly older now. There are a few kids but most of us are grown now and we do our own thing. This means that holidays sometimes aren’t as festive as they once were for me.
With that in mind, I started planning one humdinger of a Thanksgiving for this group of seniors. Ten volunteers signed up to help make this project happen. The menu consisted of all the staples: turkey, stuffing, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, tossed salad, multigrain rolls, and mashed potatoes and gravy. I bought all this food planning on feeding about 50 people, but I honestly didn’t think we would have much of a turn out. I just figured since this was an independent living facility that most of the residents who came would just come to pick up a plate of food and then would leave to go hang out with their family. That was not the case.
As the room filled I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one who didn’t have much family to be around on Thanksgiving. One of the residents who I had met before and who I feel like I have a pretty good relationship with told me this was all she had planned for that day. After the meal and bingo she was going to go upstairs and watch TV. Another lady told me her family lived far away and her friends at the building were all she had for the holiday. Yet another woman told me she loves Chicago Cares, and would rather be with us and her friends at the building. After hearing all of their stories I quickly became thankful for the opportunity I had to bring this sense of community to these residents who would not have had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with anyone if it weren’t for Chicago Cares.
Chicago Cares seniors programming is grounded in this very idea: regular social contact for seniors leads to a higher overall quality of life that allows them to remain independent longer [i] . Yes, it’s always great to feed those who are food insecure. And yes, it’s great to provide budget relief to those who have to decide between paying their bills or filling their prescriptions. But I think the service we provide that is the most needed is building a sense of community. Many seniors don’t have a large social circle to pull from. For many, their families and friends have moved on, or passed away, and the only circle they have are their neighbors. Our programming provides a fun and safe environment for seniors to build that sense of fellowship with one another. And studies have shown that one of the secrets to longevity is having a quality social circle that you can depend on.
Your donation to Chicago Cares seniors programming through our I Care Campaign will make sure that we can continue to provide a fun, open, and engaging space for seniors to build their community and continue to live long, healthy and fulfilling lives. $25 will provide the bingo prizes for one night of bingo. $50 will provide a hot breakfast for a group of 20 seniors.
[i] Tomaka, J., and Thompson, S and Palacios, R. (2006) The Relation of Social Isolation, Loneliness, and Social Support to Disease Outcomes Among the Elderly. Department of Health Promotion, University of Texas at El Paso.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Unless you’ve been on an extended vacation to Alaska, you’ve probably noticed that this has been one of the hottest, driest, summers on record in Chicago. Facing so many days that have been above 90 degrees, it’s more important than ever to remember to check on those who are in an at risk population, such as seniors and infants, to make sure they don’t suffer from weather related illnesses like heat stroke.
Heat stroke happens when the body’s temperature is raised abnormally and can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as:
- muscle cramps and aches
- the absence of sweating, with hot red or flushed dry skin
- rapid pulse
- difficulty breathing
- strange behavior
- high body temperature
- seizure, and/or coma
Heat stroke is a serious medical emergency and can be fatal if not promptly and properly treated. The best way to avoid heat stroke is by staying hydrated in temperature controlled locations. The government provides a number of cooling centers throughout the area. Be sure to check the list of cooling centers here in the city and all over Illinois.
If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, you should immediately move that person out of the sun and into a cool, shady or air-conditioned space. Call 911 and then try to cool the person down by spraying them with cool water or wiping them with a damp towel or sheet. Using direct air with a fan or newspaper will also help especially after applying the cool water. Also try to have the person drink some water, or a cool non alcoholic and caffeine free beverage.
Today’s post is by Senior Coordinator of Senior Services, Rosie Drumgoole.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Finding the right volunteer opportunity usually comes down to something as simple as personality. Choosing a project that matches your interests and character traits will help you find a service opportunity that gives back to others and renews your energy in the process!
Here are a few suggestions to help you find the perfect summer project to fit your mood and interests:
You know that art is more than just a pretty picture. Use your gift to help others at programs like Therapeutic Art at Rainbow House or Arts & Eats at Hansberry Apartments. If you’re more of the performing type, check out Drama Club at Chicago House.
The Green Thumb
Summer in Chicago is the perfect time to practice your gardening skills! Whether you’re a horticulture pro at home or a wishful apartment dweller, dreaming of a plot of your own, you can get your gardening fix at Drake Gardens or the unique Garden in the Sky at Gary Comer Youth Center.
Your closet is already color coded and your pantry is freshly labeled, so take a break and show off your skills at Library Maintenance at Wentworth Elementary or by sorting clothes at the Bottomless Closet Clothing Drive.
No matter what your area of interest or personality, we’ve got over 200 volunteer opportunities every month to help you give back and feel great!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Last week we celebrated National Volunteer Week by taking time each day to thank the tens of thousands of you who help make our work possible.
Whether you volunteer through your company, lead an ongoing project, give a monthly donation, or all of the above; we appreciate all you do for Chicago Cares!
Many departments throughout Chicago Cares took time to create these fun projects, each bringing their own message and unique brand of creativity. Whether you missed a day or just need a good reason to smile, here’s a look back at our celebration of National Volunteer Week.
- Monday: Thank You, Annual Event Volunteers
- Tuesday: Thank You, Corporate Volunteers
- Wednesday: Thank You, Education Volunteers
- Thursday: Thank You, Donors
- Friday: Cheers to Chicago’s Best AND Thank You, Human Services and Environment Volunteers
- Saturday: Thank You, Youth in Service Volunteers
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
At Chicago Cares we want to make sure that our volunteers have educational opportunities to increase their awareness of the issues and communities they care about. Sometimes this means holding workshops, other times it may mean informative blog posts, but every once in a while, it means a night at the movies!
If you are interested in senior services, we invite you to join us on April 24, at an exclusive pre-screening of the film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Starring Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith; the film follows a group of retirees from Britain who are looking to make the most of their retirement by uprooting their lives to explore India. This story explores life after retirement and touches on a variety of different issues that affect our seniors.
After the film, our resident senior expert, Rosie Drumgoole will lead a short discussion of the movie and the relevant issues facing seniors in Chicago. This will be a great opportunity to meet other Chicago Cares volunteers and learn more about senior services.
Tickets for this special pre-screening event are free, but space is limited so register today!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
There are so many ways you can get involved in your community.
You can volunteer, start a community garden, get to know your neighbors, read at your child’s school, participate in community groups; the list goes on and on. But while you’re out, “being the change that you want to see in the world,” what is your pet doing?
Yes, I did just ask about your pet. Pets can do more than just play around. They can have a huge impact on those in your community who are fighting isolation and depression; concerns that plague many in the senior community.
According to Susie McGee, there are 3 major ways that pets can impact the way seniors live:
- Physical: Pets can help seniors be more active in a variety of ways. There is the obvious walking of the dog, but brushing and petting can also increase activity. It’s been documented that pets can help reduce blood pressure and stress in a person’s life, providing very real health benefits.
- Mental: Pets that visit seniors can help stimulate memories of pets that the senior may have had in their own lifetime. These memories could trigger other memories and ideas that the senior may have forgotten. Also pets require routines, flexibility and planning; all great ways to stimulate mental capacity.
- Emotional: Pets can provide seniors with companionship, reduce depression, decrease anxiety, and provide a higher level of comfort when they are visiting family or friends.
Chicago Cares currently offers two pet therapy programs that aim to decrease isolation for the seniors and to increase the capacity of the activities staff at the different sites by building a sense of community within the sites. This is done by bringing domesticated animals and volunteers to visit all of the residents, especially those who aren’t mobile and who have mental disabilities, including dementia, and may not be able to participate in other programming at the sites.When asked to talk about Chicago Cares Pet Therapy programs Maria Chiappetta who is one of our Lakeview Seniors Pet Therapy volunteer leaders said “Pet therapy, on Monday is definitely something the residents look forward to and plan on, as the pets arrive the residents have treats ready, it is almost as if they are planning a visit from a loved one.”
Fran Smith who also is a volunteer leader with our Lakeview Seniors Pet Therapy program said “One lovely resident named Gertrude (she generally is wearing her pearls) loves having the pets come. She says they are working and hopes they get a salary. She volunteers to dog sit if we have a hot date or need a last-minute sitter.”
Megan Germain who leads our Pet Therapy at Covenant Home program said “I love going and watching the seniors with the pets. Even the ones who don’t necessarily interact directly with the pets still come out every month and enjoy the fun atmosphere that the animals bring.”
So next time you decide you want to do something good in your community don’t be greedy and keep the opportunity to yourself. Make sure you allow your pet a chance to make a difference as well!
Lakeview Seniors Pet Therapy and Pet Therapy at Covenant Home welcome all domesticated and well-behaved pets and volunteers to participate in their programs. Don’t have a pet but still want to volunteer with one? You can still sign up to participate at Lakeview or Covenant Home and work with another volunteer and his/her pet.
Today’s post is from Senior Coordinator, Rosie Drumgoole.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
As Katniss, Peeta and the other tributes battle it out on the big screen today for the premiere of the Hunger Games, we’re reminded that issues of poverty, food insecurity and hunger aren’t just post-apocalyptic fictions, warning us of the future. These are very real issues that hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans must face each and every day.
Studies conducted by the Greater Chicago Food Depository estimate that over 777,000 individuals in Cook County live in poverty. As a result, many people skip meals or cut back on the quality or quantity of food they purchase for themselves and their families. Many families also have to make the difficult choice of choosing to buy food or pay for housing or medicine.
The GCFD Running on Empty report followed the nutritional habits of nearly 500 Cook County students over the course of 24 hours. According to their findings, 45% of the children missed a meal within that 24 hour period and less than 0.7% received the recommended daily allowance for all five food groups.
A study by Feeding America done in February 2010 took a look at food insecurity in America. It found that 30% of client households with seniors indicated that they have had to choose between food and medical care and 35% had to choose between food and paying for heat/utilities. The same study also found that 3.6 million older Americans live below the poverty level and 1.3 million were deemed food insecure.
By working with a wide variety of community partners, we are fighting hunger across Chicago. Our volunteers serve meals, sort and repackage donated food, use local food pantries to ‘shop’ for healthy groceries for people living with HIV/AIDS and tend the community gardens that grow organic, sustainable produce for people in need. When you volunteer at a hunger program, you make a real difference in the lives of men, women, children and seniors across Chicago.
So as you’re enjoying your popcorn, getting ready to be transported to Panem, please don’t forget the very real battle that hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans are facing every single day. Make time to volunteer at a hunger program, and may the odds be eternally in your favor.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I met Jane for the first time on a cold Thursday night in December of 2007 while volunteering at my first Chicago Cares bingo event.
She politely asked how my day was, but before I could get a word in edgewise, Jane immediately launched into how terrible her dinner had tasted and then asked if I could help her place chips on the board when the numbers were called .
You see, Jane couldn’t see or hear very well but that didn’t matter to her because she was just content to be able to play some bingo with all her wonderful friends.
I continued to help out on Thursday nights and Jane and I got to know each other quiet well. Every week when we arrived, her smile would brighten up the room. I often sat next to her as she would hold my hand, sharing stories of how she and her husband would go to local jazz clubs every Saturday, sipping wine and dancing the night away. I learned a lot about her love for her husband. She made my night awhile later when she jokingly asked what I was doing that Saturday night, “Are you up for dancing and wine?”
Once, as I sat next to her, a number was called and Jane scolded me, “Aren’t you going to cover my number with that chip?” I had forgotten to place a chip on the board and she quickly reminded me that, although her hearing and vision were limited, they were still good enough to win three bingo games that night.
Jane told me, flat-out, that her age was 98 and she was not ashamed of it. She once told me that she loved her life and never had any regrets. Jane inspired so many people, not just the volunteers but the other residents as well. Everyone wanted to sit and talk to Jane because she was a such delightful person.
About six months ago I heard of Jane’s passing, she was 100 yrs old. Every time I enter the activity room I can still see her smile and her presence is felt throughout the space. We all deeply miss her but knowing Jane, she would want the bingo games to play on.
Today’s post is by Chicago Cares volunteer and 20th Anniversary Host Committee Member, Bob Cordero. We invite you to discover more stories of service by attending our 20th Anniversary Celebration on March 9!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The world is getting older. No, I’m serious, the world is getting older! Not just the actual planet, but the population more specifically. In America, those 65 and over make up 12.9% of the population according to 2009 census data. In 2030 it is predicted that 19% of the American population will be 65 and older according to the Administration on Aging.
As you can imagine from these stats, the topic of healthy aging is really important to a large portion of society. Here are some tips to remember.
1) Moisturize! As you grow older your body doesn’t produce new skin cells at the same rate as when you are younger. As a result you can end up with sun spots, enlarged pores, and wrinkles. Moisturizing can help prevent these things from happening by protecting your skin from the harshness of weather and pollution. Moisturizing can also make your skin look and feel younger and more supple.
Not only should you moisturize your skin, but your hair as well. As people get older the scalp becomes drier. This can mean brittle hair, loss of color, and frizz. Adding a leave in conditioner or using a thick hair mask on a weekly basis can combat this from happening, or at least slow the process. It will also make your hair shinier and healthier.
2) Eat Well! The sooner you start the better. Look for foods that are high in nutrients and low in calories. How many calories you need on a daily basis is going to depend on your age, gender, and level of physical activity. The better your diet the better your body will function and look in the long run.
3) Exercise! Getting fit is a lifetime habit that everyone should have. Beginning at 25 the body begins to lose 4% of its strength every decade. By exercising regularly you can get back that strength, increase flexibility and endurance. Working out for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week is a goal that will keep you healthy and fit. This doesn’t mean you have to live in a gym either. Simply taking the stairs instead of an elevator or walking your dog for an extra 10 minutes can make all the difference.
4) Stop smoking! Smoking can cause a plethora of health conditions from heart and lung disease to cancer and so on. Not only is it bad for your insides but your outsides as well. Smoking has been proven to accelerate the aging process for your skin as well. With that being said, there is good news. Once you stop smoking, the benefits to your health are almost immediate. Within 20 minutes your heart rate drops. Within 12 hours the level of carbon monoxide in your body will decrease to normal levels. Within 3 months you will decrease your risk for heart disease. As you age these benefits take longer to kick in, but they do kick in! When you quit smoking you also reduce your risk of unintentional fires, hip fractures (yes smoking affects your bone density too), and increase your mental acuity.
5) Support/Socialize! “We all need somebody to lean on” is not just the lyric to a great song but a fact of life. This is especially true as we age. In a 2005 study by the United Neighborhood Houses of New York, they found that seniors who have a strong support system (friends, family, and neighbors) are more satisfied with their life, and experience better mental and physical health. You don’t have to have a large social circle either; you just have to have quality relationships that will last. Those with strong support systems are more likely to communicate to others when they are having problems and are less likely to become isolated and over looked.
Chicago Cares provides a wide range of programming that focuses on nutrition, exercise, socialization and healthy living in general, benefitting people of all ages. For more information and to volunteer please visit our website.
Today’s post is by Chicago Cares resident senior expert, Rosie Drumgoole.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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