Friends and neighbors
Imagine yourself at 70, climbing up a ladder to repair a broken ceiling fan or bending down on arthritic knees to weather-strip all the doors in your home. Imagine yourself at any age, overwhelmed by the tasks of everyday life, with no one to call on for help—no son to come over and mow the lawn, no one to bring you chicken soup when you’re sick. Well, 27-year-old Kimberly Jones feels that’s what neighbors are for: pitching in to help each other if needed. Jones, who’s studying to be a certified public accountant, is co-chair of Caring Neighbors of Arden Park . She and her twin sister, Kelly, helped form the group about a year ago in order to reach out to those in their neighborhood who needed a little assistance, and more than two dozen people have volunteered for duty so far. To contact the group or get information on similar groups operating in Land Park, Citrus Heights and other Sacramento neighborhoods, go to www.caringneighborhoods.org.
What kinds of things do Caring Neighbors of Arden Park volunteers do?
The types of things we’ve done so far are like cleaning out gutters … driving people to their doctor’s appointment or going with them to pick up prescriptions. We helped someone remove wallpaper. Shopping—grocery shopping. And sometimes it’s just visiting and going to lunch.
What are the reasons you think people get in touch with Caring Neighbors?
Well … we want older people to stay independent—living in their own homes, getting to doctors appointments, picking up medication—and we know in order to do that, they might need extra help. … Owning a home and having a big house are really overwhelming even as a young adult—all the physical things that go into it. … So, we want [people] to be able to live in their house alone and provide them with the help they might need. That’s our goal.
Do volunteers form long-term relationships with the people they help, or do they just step in to help with occasional things?
We have. My sister and I have definitely formed relationships with the people. We consider them our friends. … You know, you really start to learn about their families, about their kids. I’d say there’s definitely friendship.
How did you personally get involved? Was it because of your grandparents?
My sister and I got involved because my sister had volunteered at a hospital in the emergency room. Elderly people would call 911, get to the emergency room, and when they were released, they’d be standing outside with no one to call. They’d have to call a cab. So, I always thought I wanted to do something to help them but didn’t really know how to do it until [information about Caring Neighbors] came out in our Arden Park newsletter. My sister and I thought this was a great idea and wanted to help out people who don’t have families and don’t have spouses. … Also, we’re really close to our grandparents. They’re so smart and so fortunate to have their health but, most importantly, to have each other to go grocery shopping with, go to doctor’s appointments with and go to dinner with. Some people do not have that luxury. They are our best friends. They love to hear our stories about life as a 27-year-old today, and we enjoy hearing their stories of what life used to be like.
There are often more volunteers than people taking advantage of them, right? Why do you think that is?
I think one thing might be trust—you know?—feeling like people are out there to take advantage of them. I think elderly people might be afraid of that. Also, I think that by calling us, they might feel like they’re giving up a little of their independence, and some people don’t want to do that even if they might need to. So, that’s possibly the reason why people haven’t contacted us.
Is there anything special about the Arden Park area?
The special thing about Arden Park is all the people that are willing to help. We have 30 volunteers, and we’ve probably only helped about 10 people. I think that our neighborhood is really great for this because we have a lot of elderly, yet we have a ton of young people who want to help.
Are there any limits to what Caring Neighbors is willing to help with?
I think our goal is to do whatever we can do, and if we can’t do it, find the resources to get it done. … For example, this one man needed to get a—he wanted to refinance, and he also ended up getting a reverse mortgage. So, it’s just kind of getting the resources people need, so he was able to live in his house and remain there.