“Know Your Nonprofits” is a weekly column from The Times-Standard that takes an in-depth look at nonprofits in Humboldt County. The featured nonprofit this week is the Redwood Coast Village. Pat Bitton, Vice-Chair of the Board, answered the following questions with input from other Board members, staff and volunteers.
Briefly describe your organization and its mission: Redwood Coast Village is a voluntary organization that helps area seniors stay socially connected and safe in their homes for as long as possible, leading active and independent lives. It is not a physical place but a group of people that make up a large neighborhood, offering the kind of help and support that a good neighbor would do. Redwood Coast Village is a member of the National Village-to-Village Network of over 250 similar but only local organizations across the United States.
The services provided include:
- Going Your Way – trips to medical appointments, shopping, social activities and more;
- Helping Hands – light repair work, help with gardening, animal care and help with home technology;
- Social Connections – creating and participating in activities such as reading groups, fun in and on the water, tech classes, pies and more;
- Just Check In – be part of a circle of appeals;
- One-call help – referrals to local departments and agencies to resolve specific issues;
- Member Recommended Businesses – references to local member recommended businesses.
We currently cover the greater Humboldt Bay area, as well as Trinidad and Blue Lake, and hope to expand to the Eel River Valley over the next year or so. Because we are volunteer driven, we need to have a base of volunteers as well as members in order to grow.
Membership costs $ 420 per year ($ 35 / month) for individuals and $ 630 per year ($ 52.50 / month) for two-person households. Our Trillium Fund offers membership scholarships to low-income individuals. Background checks are required for members and volunteers for everyone’s safety.
When and why was this association founded? : Those over 60 make up 25% of the population of Humboldt County. While the county has a number of organizations supporting the elderly, the majority focus on those on the lowest incomes. Villages are specifically designed for everyone, not just one or two specific groups.
In 2013, the Area 1 Agency on Aging received a grant from St. Joseph Care for the Poor to support its volunteer driver program and assess community interest in creating a local village. A1AA surveyed over 3,000 people with questions about aging in Humboldt County and the concept of the village. Driven by the results of this survey, the public debate on establishing a village in Humboldt began in 2014, and in February 2015, Redwood Coast Village was born. During the first two years, the Village operated under the auspices of A1AA and became an independent non-profit association in October 2017. Today we have 125 members and 100 volunteers.
Is there anything you wish more people knew about the organization or the issues that this nonprofit is trying to solve? : Social contact, whether in the context of service delivery or as part of a specific program, is essential for the mental and physical well-being of older people, who may suffer from extreme social isolation. Additionally, the simple act of falling off a ladder when changing a light bulb can trigger a series of events that lead to premature death. Ensuring that our neighbors can stay safe in their homes for as long as possible is essential. Growing old and weak in America is a very expensive proposition:
- hired helper – $ 12 to $ 29 per hour;
- assisted living – $ 1,300 to $ 6,000 per month;
- skilled nursing – $ 10,000 per month, private salary.
Obviously, the safer and more independent seniors can live with with a little help from the neighborhood, the better for everyone. We provide a sense of security for the elderly and reassure family members who may not be available all the time to make sure everything is okay.
Where does most of the association’s funding come from? : About 60% of our expenses are covered by membership dues, with the remainder coming from grants and local donations. Our office, with only two part-time staff and a small group of volunteers, acts as a communication hub to connect volunteers with members in need of services, so it is essential that we maintain this core function.
How can people get involved in your organization? : There are two main ways to support Redwood Coast Village: through volunteering and donating (and through membership, of course – many of our members are volunteers too). Our volunteers are often our greatest advocates. They meet and spend time with new people, travel to new places and get to know the local history. We are always in need of volunteer drivers, animators and people who can help around the house and the garden. Cash donations are welcome anytime, by regular mail or through our website at www.redwoodcoastvillage.org.
Tell me about some of the recent accomplishments of your organization: We kept going through the pandemic! It has been a constant challenge to find enough drivers without exhausting our most loyal volunteers, but we were able to get members to their essential medical appointments, take care of their errands and even maintain the reading group, albeit via Zoom. Now that things are starting to open up, other activities are coming to life.
What challenges has the pandemic created for your organization and how has the nonprofit met these challenges? : Since many of our volunteers are seniors themselves, it has at times been difficult to provide our essential services. However, we established protocols early on to handle social distancing in cars and the safe provision of grocery shopping services (which we limited to twice a month), and we were fortunate to just have enough volunteers to get things done. We put in-home services on hold for a while, but over time members and volunteers established a level of comfort between them. Being part of a state and nationwide network of villages has been very helpful in establishing safe working practices.
What’s the best way for people to find out more about your nonprofit organization? : We have a comprehensive website with information on volunteering and membership. The best way to get a quick overview would be to watch the two-minute video created by Village Movement California, the umbrella organization of the Villages of California at www.redwoodcoastvillage.org/whatisavillage. You can also call the office at 707-442-3763, ext. 217.
To participate in the “Know Your Nonprofit Organizations” section, contact Heather Shelton at [email protected]