Barely two weeks into her new position as the St. Paul Senior Chore Service coordinator, Noreen Huntington was already in the thick of it – taking calls, making visits and developing new forms. “I’m trying to get a game plan in place,” she said.
The Senior Chore Service helps those who are 60 and older, or who are disabled, live independently by matching them with youth and adult volunteers who provide an array of home services. Volunteers assist with housework, lawn and garden care, snow removal, gutter cleaning, window washing, screen or storm window changing, painting (exterior or interior), basement and garage cleaning, and minor home maintenance and repair.
Recently, the weather has been generating most of the calls to the organization, which shares office space with the St. Anthony Park Community Council at South St. Anthony Recreation Center.
“We’re busy with snow shoveling,” Huntington said. “People began calling when the first snowfall hit. Someone who called recently was in the hospital, and when he came home to all the snow he was unable to shovel.”
Huntington said maintaining a list of volunteers is a balancing act. “Timing is everything. If a potential volunteer comes along and there’s no client to help, they’ll go someplace else. Conversely, if clients are kept waiting, they get frustrated.”
The Chore Service publicizes its services through newspaper advertising and welcome packets given to new residents. They maintain contact with schools, a primary source of student volunteers. And they try to find places where seniors gather.
Huntington, who grew up in St. Paul, brings a wealth of experience to this part-time position. She’s been overseeing volunteer programs for 17 years, at Second Harvest Heartland, the American Red Cross, Ebenezer, the Roseville Senior Program and the Macalester-Groveland Block Nurse program, where she still works part-time.
Huntington has been working to connect the Senior Chore Service to other organizations. One example is HandsOn Twin Cities (handsontwincities.org), which enables volunteers to find opportunities close to where they live.
Huntington said that prospective volunteers undergo a background check and sign a confidentiality agreement. If they’re under 18, a parental signature is required.
She said high school and college students can sometimes fulfill service learning requirements by volunteering with the Senior Chore Service.
“A couple of 15-year-old boys called recently,” she said. “Both live in St. Anthony Park, and one was looking to fulfill service learning for high school, while the other needed it as part of his National Honor Society involvement.”
Huntington said some workers are compensated. “It can be a source of employment for young people who are under 16 and unable to get a job elsewhere,” she said. “They negotiate a fee with the client that’s between $5 and $10 an hour.”
Besides learning independence, young people profit from developing relationships with seniors, Huntington said. “It’s a great inter-generational activity. Seniors value the relationships, too, because they get to understand today’s young people better.”
Potential clients and volunteers can call the St. Paul Senior Chore Service at 649-5984. More information is available at sapcc.org/seniorchore.