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April Obholz Bergeler, Executive Director of Ark Valley Helping Hands (AVHH), spoke to about 10 volunteers at Thonoff Park Saturday morning, giving them instructions on AVHH’s winter edition of the Seasonal Service Program.

“The Seasonal Service Program is now our signature event,” she said. “One service day per season – rain snow, shine, whatever,” she said, gesturing to the sunny skies that were a welcome sight after a couple of wintry cold days prior.

“We incorporate our volunteers who are ‘regular’ and volunteers from the public in the effort to help seniors with tasks that enable them to remain in their homes,” she added.

Helping Hands serves some of the household needs of those 50 and older locally. About 26 percent of Chaffee County’s population of 20,000-plus is 65 or older.

Saturday, Jan. 19, the volunteers were working at eight households. “For example, we have a team going to a household in Smeltertown,” Obholz Bergeler said, “where we’ll be working out in the back yard picking up sticks, collecting those, taking those away – that’s part of the green cleanup that we advertised for this event…. We have quite a few households where we’ll be there cleaning their exterior windows,” she added.

Most work currently is done outside, due to ongoing virus concerns.

“Typically what we like to do for the seasonal event is we like to keep it to the exterior and there’s plenty of things to do outside. On an ongoing basis, with our – I think it’s 117 volunteers we now have – they help us with an array of things inside the home as well as outside.  Sometimes, it’s transportation to a medical appointment or picking up a prescription for a member, so it runs the gamut as far as set services. Certain things are outside our wheelhouse though, so we’ll refer them very often to the Area Agency on Aging … we complement each other really well,” Obholz Bergeler said. “This Seasonal Service Program/signature program is an exciting way to do many things at once,” she added.

Stephanie Loper, AVHH volunteer works on debris pickup at a Buena Vista senior’s home Jan. 29. in Buena Vista. Loper worked with two other event volunteers, Marilyn and John Bouldin, and AVHH board secretary Ben Eichel. Courtesy photo.

Mason Green, Administrative Assistant at AVHH described a couple of clients that were being helped.

One was a Salida man, nearing 100, a resident since the early 1900s, living in his long-time home near the river, who simply needed help with debris clean-up in his backyard.

Another client was a woman in a wheelchair. “She has a path in her backyard, and she had trouble getting from her house to the driveway and into the car…” Green said, so cleaning out the pathway would ease that, with perhaps a follow-up in spring for more path improvements, he said.

“While Chaffee County has many resources, some service gaps exist between programs, so AVHH assisting with minor household work helps people stay in their homes. “…and we’re just making their lives a bit easier,” Green added.

All the clients were very appreciative for the work.

Featured image: Volunteers with Ark Valley Helping Hands assemble to carry out their Season Service project Jan. 29 at Thonoff Park. From left are Sue Eininger; Johnny (12); AVHH board co-chair Molly Bischoff; co-founder/board member Dee Dubin; Mike Bischoff; board member Andrea Carlstrom; Annie Macy; executive director April Obholz Bergeler; and administrative assistant Mason Green. Dan Smith photo.