Monday, November 18, 2019
Making the Connection-Cocktails for a Cause Boosts Fast Growing Population
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Artist Elizabeth Bayer checks out information about The Senior Connection’s overnight trip to Smiley Creek—one of scads of field trips offered during the year.
 
Sunday, October 20, 2019
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

It should be no secret that Blaine County’s senior population is growing faster than Idaho’s and the United States’.

 In fact, the senior population here is growing 53 percent—more than the 30 percent increase the Gem State is experiencing or the 22 percent increase for the country as a whole. And, with that increase, the Senior connection is averaging 10 new members a week.

Those new members are welcomed into a family of 750 other men and women who partake in the Senior Connection’s activities.

 
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Tony Barriatua and Kim Alley enjoy cocktails in front of a painting by James Cook.
 

“I love the Senior Connection—I always get a big hug. And you’re looking at the gold medal winner in cornhole at the Senior Games!” said Katie Heaphy. “There’s a senior center in New York where I spend part of the year. But it’s very small compared to ours here.”

Heaphy was among a turnaway crowd of 200 people at The Senior Connection’s fourth annual Cocktails for a Cause this past week at Gail Severn Gallery. Their mission: to raise paddles over old-fashioned cocktails pledging monetary support for The Senior Connection, which touches the lives of 70 percent of the 4,226 people in Blaine County over 65.

They were greeted gratefully by Director Teresa Beahen Lipman who talked of “the culture of kindness” that she sees daily between the 150 volunteers and those who take part in activities.

“At the Senior Connection we do what family does,” she said. “When someone needs to go to the Veterans Administration in Boise, we get someone to drive them. When someone needs a bunch of medical paperwork filled out, we help them. When one of our volunteers heard a noticeable difference in one of our members voices, she said, ‘I’m coming now,’ and soon he was on his way to a hospital in Boise.

 
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Volunteer Robyn Watson carts flowers across the gallery.
 

‘We sing Happy Birthday to someone and they get a card signed by over 100 friends. Chief Erik knows which ones have food allergies. We have a woman with MS who cuts food for another even though it’s difficult for her. And when someone needed a wheelchair that they couldn’t afford, we procured one and delivered it to their home. We do what families do.”

A small group of supporters provided attendees incentive to give, promising to donate $80,000 if attendees would pledge another $120,000. Several volunteers, such as Leslie Silva, kept busy raising paddles for those who couldn’t be there. And, by the time R.L. Rowsey had closed the deal, supporters had pledged $210,000 all told.

It represented nearly a $50,000 increase over last year’s fundraising totals of $167,000, according to Board President Michael Beck.

Every penny will go to the seniors, promised Senior Connection Board Member Erin Buell.

 
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Chef Erik Olson and his staff kept busy serving sliders and other hors d’oeuvres, in addition to food donated by Cristina’s, Café Della and the Ketchum Grill.
 

In fact, the Senior Connection offers more than 300 classes and activities a year, including its Fit and Fall Proof classes, aimed at keeping seniors from being the one in four seniors who fall each year.

Last year it provided 25,000 meals in house and via Meals on Wheels. It offered 5,000 rides to doctor’s appointments and other things. It provided 8,500 hours of home care ensuring seniors could stay in their homes. And 4,000 hours of adult memory and day care for those experiencing some sort of dementia.

The Senior Connection has a new program encouraging people to donate slightly used hearing aids that can be refitted for low-income seniors with hearing loss.

And it’s repurposed space for a new human resources center where specialists are on hand to tell clients that those receiving assistance from the Veterans Administration can see doctors here instead of Twin Falls since Twin Falls is more than 40 miles away.

 
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Connie Post and Glenda Cox enjoy a photo op in front of one of Robb Putnam’s bears made from cast-off Salvation Army rags.
 

A Health Care Initiative is providing tests for macular degeneration.

And a new Home Share Division is working with Blaine County Housing to create a program that would put home providers with home seekers. The home seekers would get free or reduced rent in exchange for, perhaps, helping the home provider out around the house.

Or, Lipman said, the program could provide a way for two seniors to live together.

Lipman said Senior Connection volunteers not only transport seniors to medical appointments locally but they also drive them to Twin Falls, Boise and even Salt Lake City.

“We do that with the help of Interlink Volunteer Caregivers out of Twin Falls,” she said. “Even if a family is able to take care of transportation, we can give them a break.”

The Connection organizes volunteers to clean up yards for seniors before the snow flies. When the snow does fly, volunteers clear off sidewalks. Some willing volunteers are also on hand should someone need to change lights in a high ceiling.

And some benefactors, such as Arnold and Susan Blair, sponsor tickets for seniors to attend Company of Fools and other performances.

Among those who was happy to contribute at Cocktails for a Cause was Nick Miller. He had just come from a ceremony honoring his friend Ed Northen for helping to save him on June 30 when he became hung up on a log while the two were

“I tried to push myself off a log with my foot and my leg got entangled,” he said.

EMTs had responded to a mountain bike accident at Chocolate Gulch. So Northen and a man who kicked off his shoes and jumped in held Miller’s head above water for 10 minutes while they tried to free him. When they finally pulled him from the river, Miller had no pulse and no heartbeat.

They gave him CRP until he could be flown to Boise for advanced medical care.

 “I have no memory about it. I’ve pinched myself often marveling that I’m still here.  So, obviously, I’m very pleased to be part of this great cause tonight.”

COMING UP: The Senior Connection will hold its annual FASHIONS AND WINE fundraiser on Thursday, Nov. 14.

And it will hold its FESTIVAL OF TREES  on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7, at the Limelight Hotel. The gala event will feature beautifully decorated Christmas trees for purchase.

 

 

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