Monday, August 25, 2008

Hurricanes and Gram

A few years ago, my grandmother sold her home in New Jersey and moved to Florida, shrinking the distance between her and my mother from a few-hour plane trip to a 10-minute car ride. Now 80 years old, my four-foot-eight Gram is still fiercely independent, preferring to climb on top of her kitchen cabinets rather than ask for help putting up that new framed picture that matches her curtains perfectly.

When warnings of Tropical Storm Fay were announced on the radio that Gram keeps at full blast all day long, she shuffled around her house not really sure what to do, but knowing that she needed to do something. Every other time a big storm had hit, my mother and brother secured her home and took her to my mother’s house with the rest of the family, where everyone sat in the safest room of the house until the worst of the storm passed. But this time, Gram wanted to do it all herself and stay in her house. She closed the blinds, took her potted plants inside from the back patio, and looked around the house, unsure of what truly needed to be done to protect herself and her belongings.

When Fay seemed to take a turn to the north, Gram called me in a tizzy – “Jaclyn! Are you ok? The hurricane is going to hit Atlanta!” I calmly explained that if it were to hit Atlanta, it would be a few days off and would be at a significantly weaker strength. Once I convinced her to stop worrying about me, I asked how she had prepared for the hurricane and if my mother had come to help (knowing from my mother than Gram had refused to let her). She admitted that she had been pacing, but didn’t really know what steps to take. Seeing the opportunity, I casually mentioned the things she needed to take care of – besides taking the potted plants in from outside.

Below is what the Department of Homeland Security suggests for emergency hurricane preparedness for older adults. While the tropical storm that threatened Gram’s home was not severe enough to warrant the preparations below, I know my grandmother would tell me, “It’s better to be safe than sorry!”

(More detail can be found here:

Long before a disaster strikes:
Consider how a disaster might affect your individual needs.
Plan to make it on your own, at least for a period of time. It's possible that you will not have access to a medical facility or even a drugstore.
Identify what kind of resources you use on a daily basis and what you might do if they are limited or not available.
Get an emergency supply kit that includes food, water, and other necessities.
If you must evacuate, take your pets with you, if possible. However, if you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside.
Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets; consider loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency.

Things to remember about medications and medical supplies:

If you take medicine or use a medical treatment on a daily basis, be sure you have what you need to make it on your own for at least a week, maybe longer.

Make a list of prescription medicines including dosage, treatment and allergy information.
Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about what else you need to prepare.
If you undergo routine treatments administered by a clinic or hospital or if you receive regular services such as home health care, treatment or transportation, talk to your service provider about their emergency plans. Work with them to identify back-up service providers and incorporate them into your personal support network.
Consider other personal needs such as eyeglasses, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries, wheelchair batteries, and oxygen.

-- Jaclyn Barbarow

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Our Board Raises the Bar -- and More!

As a part of our Comprehensive Strategic Plan our board, clients, staff, volunteers and other stakeholders recognized that our visibility in Atlanta was frankly inadequate. When a forty-three year organization is a “best kept secret” in Atlanta, this provides a serious barrier to engaging the volunteer and donor support needed to meet the critical mission.

However, allocating funding to marketing instead of services is just not a part of Senior Citizen Services’ culture—we have always hung our hat on the fact that very little donated funds are utilized for administrative expenses (usually less than 15% annually).

The solution? SCS was fortunate last fall to receive a challenge grant from an anonymous foundation. This foundation challenged our staff and board to find a significant amount of funding that would be matched by the foundation—all of which was to be invested in raising the organization’s visibility, and therefore its ability to engage volunteers and donors.

Our Development Committee Chairman, Al Kleeman, embarked on a new adventure—what if we could raise a portion of the funding needed from the Board? Would this cannibalize our special events? Our original projection was that we could raise about half to two-thirds from the Board and then go to other foundations and friends of the organization for the rest.

We knew we were on our way when one of our Board members responded in a Board meeting with a phenomenal gift—she challenged the rest to give in a meaningful and significant way…and they did!

Within three months we had raised and surpassed the goal—and could go back to the foundation with the funding in hand to meet the challenge.

This is but one example of how Senior Citizen Services’ Board of Trustees is “raising the bar”—and more. They are raising needed funds to invest in SCS’ future. There have been numerous other examples for “raising the bar” since, whether it was participating in fund development workshops, adopting an aggressive new job description, or now embarking on a new fiscal year Board and Friend-Raising Campaign.

I have witnessed a dramatic change since I have been at Senior Citizen Services. Our Board members continue to engage more, encourage each other more, and in so doing enable more seniors to receive the vital services of Senior Citizen Services.

Hats off to you, our leaders and ambassadors! You are setting an exciting course for our organization and our treasured seniors.

Jeff Smythe, Executive Director

Monday, August 4, 2008

Christmas in July

Senior Citizen Services recently held its annual “Christmas in July” party for Santa for Seniors. It was a lovely party in the backyard by the pool of a gorgeous Buckhead home. Over 100 people attended and brought more than 200 gifts with them to be used during the holiday season.

Santa for Seniors is the brainchild of SCS Board Member, Jade Sykes, and her mom, Jill Berry. A few years back, Jade decided that for her December birthday, she would like her friends to bring a gift for a senior instead of bringing a birthday gift. Santa for Seniors was born! Each year since its inception it has grown.

Jill Berry says, “Senior citizens are probably our loneliest and least considered group. A little bitty gift makes them smile like the days when they were young and Santa Clause came to see them.”

Originally, the idea was to collect enough gifts so that each Meals On Wheels Atlanta client would receive something with their meal delivery on Christmas day. Last year, SCS collected enough gifts that not only did each meals on wheels client received a gift, but also each client in our Adult Day Care program AND each client in our eight Neighborhood Senior Centers. Nearly 1000 gifts were distributed during the 2007 holiday season!

If you would like to donate a gift for a senior, visit the “Special Events” section of for a list of “senior friendly” gift items. Gifts can be dropped at the SCS headquarters Monday through Friday from now until Christmas.