Houston Coalition Launches Volunteer Caregivers Initiative as Part of RWJF's Faith in Action Program
From May 2001 through October 2003, staff at the Faith in Action Project of Houston recruited, trained and deployed volunteers to provide caregiver services to elderly people living in Houston's Independence Heights neighborhood.
The Faith in Action Project of Houston was a coalition of six organizations (churches and businesses), which was spearheaded by staff from Elderly & Veterans Assistance & Relief Services, an independent nonprofit organization serving elderly people and veterans.
The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) national program Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers Program, Faith in Action®, Generation 2 and Generation 3.
- Project staff recruited more than 75 volunteers, who provided direct non-medical assistance to 200300 frail elderly people annually. Services ranged from household chores to friendly visits and transportation.
- Special projects for care recipients included:
- A food pantry.
- A residential facility that can house up to six ambulatory elderly people.
- Prescription pickup and delivery.
- Reassurance calls.
- Companion care.
- Education on Medicare's prescription drug plan (Part D).
- Documentation preparation.
RWJF supported this project with a grant of $35,000 from May 2001 to October 2003.
The Independence Heights neighborhood is an historic community located on the west side of Houston. In 1915, it was the first town incorporated in Texas by African Americans. Consolidated with Houston in 1929, it remains a predominantly African-American area.
- Of the 14,206 residents (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000), almost 60 percent are African American; the next largest population group is Hispanic at 32 percent.
- Per-capita median income is $10,447, or about a third of the U.S. per-capita income.
- The federal Department of Health and Human Services has designated the community as a Medically Underserved Area due to its shortage of personal health services.
Under this grant, staff from Elderly & Veterans Assistance & Relief Services put together a coalition called the Faith in Action Project of Houston to recruit, train and deploy volunteers to provide caregiver services locally to elderly people.
Elderly & Veterans Assistance & Relief Services is an independent nonprofit service organization located in Houston. Original coalition members included:
- Elderly & Veterans Assistance & Relief Services
- Deliverance Temple Church of the Living God
- Church of the Living God No. 1
- BM Ministries
- Deliverance Tabernacle
- Greater New Hope
- Chase Bank
After establishing a board of directors and bylaws, project staff began recruiting volunteers through presentations to local congregations, ads on community access television and a booth at a health fair. A newsletter Faith at Work kept volunteers and coalition members informed of accomplishments and volunteering opportunities, along with serving as a recruitment tool.
Volunteers provided the following services:
- Respite care.
- Transportation to and from medical appointments.
- Prescription pickups.
- Grocery shopping.
- Friendly visiting.
- Telephone reassurance.
- Chores/household repair.
- Linking people with other community services.
- Coordinating and training other volunteers.
- Program operations and fundraising.
At an orientation and training meeting, project staff members describe opportunities for volunteering and discuss issues relevant to working with elderly people. Volunteers typically provide services in areas they have experience with, thereby minimizing the need for further training.
The project yielded the following results:
- Project staff recruited more than 75 volunteers, who directly assisted 200300 frail elderly people annually. The majority of care recipients lived alone; smaller numbers lived with family or friends or in nursing homes.
- Project staff established the Faith at Work Food Pantry for elderly peoples at risk of undernourishment. Open twice a week, the pantry provides elderly residents in the area with several days' supply of nonperishable and meat food items. Local groceries and individuals donate food.
- All food recipients go through a one-time intake process, which alerts staff to other difficulties a recipient may be facing, such as transportation, prescription pickup or household chores.
- In 2003, United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast contributed $5,000 to improve the pantry facility.
- Project staff opened a residential facility for ambulatory elderly people. Called the Mary Alice Cottage, after the project director's mother, and located on her deceased parent's property, the house is designed for people who cannot live by themselves but do not yet require the full services of a nursing home. It can house up to six residents.
"A couple months ago," says Barbara Matthews, the coordinator of the Faith in Action Project of Houston, "a woman who comes to get food at the pantry mentioned that she was worried about one of her elderly neighbors. She was concerned because she hadn't seen them for a while, and their house was in disrepair.
"So some of our volunteers went over and found a sweet old couple in the house, who were pretty frail. I don't know how they were getting food. So we cleaned up their house for them, and now we bring them food from the pantry twice a week, which also gives us a chance to check up on them. We also pick up their prescriptions. I'm pretty sure that they'd be in a nursing home by now if we hadn't discovered them there."
AFTER THE GRANT
Faith in Action Project of Houston continues to work with approximately 75 volunteers, who serve 200300 people annually.
The project staff is working on an array of projects within Faith in Action's outreach to provide services to the homebound and those who would be homebound if the project's services were not available.
Staff acquired the land and the buildings to create a new home for itself, to be called Faith in Action Plaza. The buildings need to be renovated.
Project staff is working to upgrade, renovate and expand the Mary Alice Cottage. The expansion of the residential facility will allow it to house 2030 residents.
United Way of the Texas Gulf Coast contributed $5,000 toward the project. Other funders include local banks, churches and local businesses.
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Faith in Action
Elderly & Veterans Assistance & Relief Services (Houston, TX)
Dates: May 2001 to October 2003
Report prepared by: Robert Crum
Reviewed by: Jayme Hannay
Reviewed by: Molly McKaughan
Program Officer: Rosemary Gibson
Program Officer: Judith S. Stavisky