HELP! Students aim for a lasting impact in the lives of low-income seniors in Flagler County
The laptops were opened in front of the Flagler HELP group gathered around the conference table, and the faces were determined. The 12- to 13-year-old ITMS students had a clear goal for their Community Problem Solvers project.
The HELP team, named for Helping Elderly Low-income People, has been attending local events and First Friday in Flagler Beach to raise awareness and money.
At Thanksgiving, the team made sure 70 families in Section 8 housing in Bunnell and Espanola had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The meal delivery was a family affair, since the students needed to rely on their parents to drive them to the different homes. The firemen at the fire department on Belle Terre cooked the turkeys.
Jermaine Bucknor said, “We were touched and shocked with some of the conditions.”
“They are so overlooked. We want to bring it to people’s attention and communicate our passion about this,” Karissa Jackson added.
The next big project is a HELP Fair on March 4 at the old Bunnell City Hall.
The goal is to bring awareness about the free services and resources available to low-income seniors in the county.
The HELP Fair will offer some health screenings, but its primary focus is to provide direct and immediate help to seniors from vendors and organizations that provide local services, including a pharmacy that delivers and a doctor who makes home visits. SHINE, ElderSource, and Bunnell Community Action will also be at the Fair.
“The Sheriff’s Office will be handing out information and help for those who are being abused, and make them aware of scams that are going on,” Margaret D’Elia said.
“One of the things they have learned is sometimes the elderly are afraid to talk about their circumstances because they are afraid something might happen to them or they will be treated differently or poorly,” team coach Jearlyn Dennie said. “They are not happy with their environment and are afraid to speak up.”
At the HELP Fair, the team has arranged to have insurance screenings that help the elderly understand what is available through their insurance and any changes in Medicare.
“Vial of Life” kits will also be given out at the fair. These kits, provided by Home Helpers, contain a health information sheet for the resident to fill in and attach to the refrigerator. Information includes what medications, allergies and other information emergency personnel needs to know when responding to a medical emergency. A sticker alerting emergency personnel to the Vial of Life is included to attach to the front door.
The team has been advertising the fair with fliers at local churches and stores around the lower income housing areas.
Working with local agencies and other groups that care for the elderly, the team has been involved with everything from raising awareness to attending a block party at Christmas to distribute gifts, and getting a donation of a wheel chair and hospital bed for a senior. One woman got what she wanted the most – a hug.
A healthy diet is important and the group is implementing the Hope Garden into their project to encourage seniors to grow fresh food.
The team is helping Daisy Henry, pastor and former Bunnell city commissioner, build a senior community center in one of her homes in Bunnell. The center would offer some of the same services the Wickline Center offers in Flagler Beach.
The team is helping out with funds for the center with donations they have received from recent events, like First Friday in Flagler Beach.
“We wanted to do something to make this sustainable,” Karissa said. “We don’t want to do something this year and never have it happen again.”
“Even if we are not together in the program next year, we are still going to do what we do with the project,” Abbigail Carver said.
The team is going to state competition in Orlando, but that has almost become a secondary goal.
“It’s not about competition, it’s about impacting our community,” Margaret said as heads nodded around the table in agreement.