Lend a Hand
When the COVID-19 pandemic swept into and across Tucson, everyone and everything nearly stopped. When that day arrived, our friends at Lend a Hand were forced to make some big decisions and changes. They did.
One all-too-important aspect, however, did not change.
“We didn’t miss a beat,” said Trish Gehlen. “We’re still going strong.”
Lend a Hand is a vital organization based in Ward 3. It serves elders in our Ward, providing meals, fresh produce, transportation, yard clean up and minor home repairs, friendly calls and more. Lend a Hand, housed at St. Francis Cabrini Church counts on some 75 volunteers and currently supports about 150 people in a dozen neighborhoods in the eastern part of the Ward. It is one of 20 organizations in town which make up the Neighbors Care Alliance, a program administered by the Pima Council on Aging.
The one significant change that the group made when the pandemic hit last spring was to cancel the monthly in-person Senior Socials at St. Francis Cabrini, Trish said. However that was replaced with the distribution of monthly ready-to-eat meals to the homes by volunteers. About 90 lunches a month are distributed every third Thursday of the month, she added.
The specialness of Lend a Hand, Trish said, is that the volunteers made valuable one-on-one connections with the seniors that gives them reliable companionship and allows them to live independently.
“These are relationships that can go on and on,” said Trish who up until March had been the program’s coordinator. That task has now fallen to Jim Austin. Jim joined Lend a Hand as a volunteer in 2018 and two years later became the transportation assistant. Trish will continue to support the group in an administrative role.
When the public health lockdown came, Lend a Hand listened to medical experts made some changes by reducing, or in some cases completely eliminating personal contact. Exercise classes, for example were cancelled as was the writers’ group. But because of the quarantine, Trish said more volunteers came forward, largely because their schedules had changed giving them extra hours. Those extra hours went to Lend a Hand.
Lend a Hand seniors visit the Tucson Museum of Art before the COVID-19 quarantine.
Volunteers are the essence of the group. They drive elders to their appointments or to get their COVID-19 vaccination. They make the phone calls. They pick up and deliver produce. They deliver food. They pull weeds or fix a broken shelf.
“We make sure that we touch base with every client,” Trish said.
Volunteers go through a training and screening process. If you would like to become a volunteer call Jim at 520-248-6882.
If you are a senior over the age of 60 or a person who is younger with a disability, call 520-312-7143 or email email@example.com. For general information and inquiries call 520-248-6882 or email firstname.lastname@example.org