Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Power of One

More than 70% of American households make charitable contributions every year. The average American contributes 2.1 percent of his or her income to charity. Last year, contributions to nonprofit organizations totaled over $260 billion. Clearly, charitable giving – and all that we accomplish through our acts of generosity, large and small – is at the very heart of our society.

But sometimes we get overwhelmed by the “largeness” or our society’s problems, or intimidated by headlines of wealthy philanthropists who give millions of dollars at once – and we stand back and ask ourselves what difference an “average” person can make. The answer is that transformational giving begins with the single individual, just as transformational change begins with a single volunteer. Every gift and every hour of volunteerism is important, not only for its immediate impact, but because these acts have a way of energizing others to follow the lead. When one person stands to make a difference, it raises us all up.

The power of one, and the power to begin, is the most valuable possession that our country, state, city, county, and neighborhoods have at our disposal. We live in a society where freedom to act is a privilege and responsibility. The decision to turn on the power is yours today! Turn it on!

Brad Catherman
Vice President, Gift Planning
Senior Citizen Services

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hispanic Seniors in Atlanta

¿Hablas español? ¿Hay servicios para personas quienes hablan español?

Well I hope I said that correctly. I have to admit that my Spanish is a little rusty. After spending a year after college in Central America immersed in the Spanish language, I now have to make a concerted effort to practice.

But that may change in the near future. The time is near when we will be speaking many languages as service providers to meet the needs of our population.

We in aging services are constantly aware of the fact that the baby boomers are and will be revolutionizing the way that we provide services—top among the reasons is that the mere number of aging adults will be more than doubling by 2030. But another statistic struck me this week. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ U.S. Population Projections 2005-2050, “The Latino population, already the nation's largest minority group, will triple in size and will account for most of the nation's population growth from 2005 through 2050. Hispanics will make up 29% of the U.S. population in 2050, compared with 14% in 2005.”[1]

So as America ages it will also become more Hispanic. Our current services surprisingly include very few Latinos. Whether it is because our service area is not touching the highest populations of Atlanta Latinos, or because Latino older adults are not seeking assistance or are not finding assistance accessible, we must answer these important questions.

Senior Citizen Services has prided itself as providing the important safety net for Atlanta older adults who have no where else to turn for support. For more than 43 years our organization has found innovative and volunteer-driven ways to meet critical community needs. We must ensure that this does not change as our city and our country continue to diversify.

Our organization will continue to explore how it can best build bridges with various communities to meet such critical needs. Whether it is engaging more multilingual volunteers or diversifying our Meals On Wheels Atlanta menu cycle, there are a multitude of ways we can expand our crucial services to more seniors in need.

Come with me as we start a buena aventura serving all of Atlanta’s valued seniors.

Jeff Smythe, Executive Director

[1] From Website: http://www.pewtrusts.org/our_work_report_detail.aspx?id=35312; July 15, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Beautiful Day

On a sunny Friday last spring, a visiting caterer’s dripping oil started a tennis ball-size fire in the SCS kitchen. Adrenaline surged through my veins as I ran down the hallways evacuating everyone, and later talked to the fire fighters, the caterers, the other building tenants, my staff, and my supervisors. Within two minutes, the fire was a small pile of soot, workers and senior clients were waiting safely in a parking lot across the street, and a thick covering of flame retardant blanketing the kitchen like an expansive, grey snowdrift.

After the fire department cleared the building for re-entry, we began escorting Adult Day Care clients back to their exercises and activities inside the building. I held Mrs. S’s elbow as I helped her across the street, my mind a thousand miles away on emergency procedures and clean-up and the trip I was scheduled to leave on that afternoon. I was cranky, but Mrs. S walked next to me with a smile on her face. Finally, as we approached the building, she said out loud, “Look how beautiful this day is! If it wasn’t for that fire, none of us would have seen the sunshine.” Ripped out of my anxious reverie, I almost stopped short in the middle of the road. Mrs. S was right! On one of the first sunny, breezy days of spring, I had trudged into work with my head down, spent all day in an air-conditioned, office with my back to the window, and planned to trudge right back out. It would have been nighttime before I realized the day had passed.

Every program of Senior Citizen Services focuses on older adults, and on our mission to enable them to enjoy a high quality of life without sacrificing their independence or dignity. In doing this, we also build communities and support relationships. Meals On Wheels Atlanta clients receive life-sustaining nutrition support, but the staff and volunteer drivers who make the deliveries are just as sustained by the relationships they nurture. HOMES clients are kept safer, drier, or warmer by the repairs provided by groups of volunteers, but nearly every volunteer group has one or two people who sit and listen to the client’s stories for hours during the project.

Older Atlantans need the services SCS provides to sustain their homes and their health; volunteers need the older Atlantans to sustain their lives. Nurturing communities allows us to stop and look up at the sun, or at a senior’s face, to remember why we’re here. It’s easy to get lost in the smoke, but the joy comes from seeing the sunshine.