It takes a Vineyard Village...to provide home services to elders
Vineyard Village at Home, a virtual community of support for older Islanders who need a little extra help to remain in their homes, is up and running.
The organization is a subscription service that offers referral to volunteers and discounted services. For those who need help with a ride to the church supper, repairing a door hinge, or arranging for health care, Vineyard Village could be the difference between staying in their own home, or moving off-Island to live with relatives, or into a health-care facility.
"It feels wonderful to be in on the ground floor," said Jane Hawkes, who is the new program coordinator for Vineyard Village. She has experience in city government during her career working for the city of Portland, Oregon. "It instilled in me a very strong sense of public service," she said.
Later, Ms. Hawkes became a small business entrepreneur, gaining skills she put to use working for several Island organizations after she relocated to Martha's Vineyard six years ago. "My own businesses gave me a feel of entrepreneurial experiences, which is helping me a whole lot as I set up this office," she said. "The jobs that I've had here on the Island have given me fantastic exposure and contact to a whole lot of people in various fields."
Her own parents live near her West Tisbury home, so she is well aware of the gaps in services experienced by many older residents. "I know firsthand what the older people are lacking."
"Jane is very energetic, very creative," said Polly Brown, who sparked the idea for Vineyard Village, and did most of the preliminary development. "She's a perfect fit for the job."
Ms. Brown said the organization has had little trouble finding people who want to join their team. "They understand what we're doing and they support it," she said.
Bill Bishop of Edgartown is enthusiastic about joining the program as a service provider. A licensed general contractor, he operates One Job At A Time, a handyman service that does jobs ranging from small repairs to home additions.
Like many providers, Mr. Bishop has personal experience that struck a chord, and spurred him to help out. His mother, Jean Bishop, is well into the age category where others might be waiting on her, yet she volunteers many hours of time to Island organizations.
"My grandfather was able to stay at home until he was in his late 90s," said Mr. Bishop. "I can't think of a nicer way to look at the end of your life. My business is good, and it's kind of a way to give back. We really try to sharpen the pencil, and give Islanders and old people kind of a break. They deserve it."
Among the most pressing needs identified in earlier research is transportation. "People stop driving at night," said Ms. Brown. "Then they stop driving altogether, and they become isolated."
Vineyard Village is signing up volunteer drivers and matching their availability to those who need a ride.
Requests for transportation are among the first calls the organization receives.
Vineyard Village is a subscription service geared to people 55 years old or older. Annual membership is $900, or $75 per month. A household with more than one person can join for $1,200 per year. If those fees are not manageable, a sliding fee scale based on income is available, and Ms. Brown says she hopes to be able to offer scholarships in the future. Already, the organization received subscriptions from people who bought the service as a gift for older parents who live on the Island.
Ms. Brown says subscription fees are not likely to cover the entire cost of Vineyard Village. She says a similar program based in Boston covers less than half of its operating budget through fees. She is working to secure grants that will fund the difference.
Vineyard Village will call on all available Island resources to help members. Often it's simply a matter of knowing where help is available, or which agency can help best. The organization does not provide any services on its own.
"The last thing we want to do is duplicate services," said Ms. Brown. But if someone calls with a need, and there is no one the Island able to provide the service, Vineyard Village is not about to give up.
"We'll find a way," said Ms. Brown.
For more information about Vineyard Village at Home, to sign up for a subscription, or get on the list of service providers, call (508) 693-3038.