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VOLUNTEERS WILL PREPARE SENIORS' HOMES FOR WINTER

Halloween day will bring treats rather than tricks to some elderly Niagara County homeowners thanks to the Peoplecare fall cleanup project sponsored by the Dale Association of Lockport.

The Peoplecare program is in its third year, thanks to a grant from the United States Fidelity and Guaranty Foundation, or USF&G.

Volunteer Coordinator Linda Roberts said the project will take place from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Oct. 31, and will serve 15 to 20 homeowners, although it's possible more could be helped, depending on the number of volunteers.

"The more volunteers we have, the more seniors we can help," Ms. Roberts said. "It's a labor-intensive program. Most of these homes will need four to six people to do what needs to be done in the time frame."

Beth Ranney, director of public relations and marketing for the Dale Association, said seniors outside the city of Lockport may be assisted as well.

"We address our city residents first, since we are located right in the city of Lockport, and then, if we have the volunteer force and the time to go out to other areas, we do that," she said.

The volunteers will help older homeowners prepare their property for the winter by washing windows, putting up storm windows, raking lawns and putting away outdoor furniture.

Getting these chores done is very important to the seniors. "These are frail, elderly homeowners who are still trying to maintain their homes, so it may help them stay a little longer in their homes," said Miss Roberts.

The volunteers also benefit. "They get out, they do their community service. The two generations see that the other isn't scary. That it's OK," she said.

Volunteers come from all walks of life and in all ages. "We work very closely with the Lockport High School, so we get kids from their Participation in Government class, which has a required community service component, and we also work with the National Honor Society at the high school," said Miss Roberts.

Others who help out are the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints and the Lutheran Area Friends and Fellowship. "We're always looking to expand it. It's also an event where we have a lot of families come out. Father and mother will bring their elementary and middle school age children, so it introduces them to the whole idea of community service," she said.

Eligible seniors are sought in various ways. Ms. Ranney said, "There is no income guideline. There is the age requirement of 50 and up. We talk to local clergymen and the city of Lockport aldermen and ask them to take it to their various wards or districts, and sometimes they have some names right at the top of their heads of people within their ward who are in need of a service like this," she added.

A list is also kept of people who have been helped in the past. Some are members of the Lockport Senior Centre who are not able to attend functions there but are comfortable seeking help from the volunteers recruited there. Having the program operated through the senior center enhances trust, Miss Roberts said.

"This is not necessarily people that can't afford to have this work done, but a lot of elderly people have hired help that has not shown up or they've done a bad job or they've overcharged them, so they're leery to go out and hire kids or people to do their yard work. If they see that the center is doing it, they know they can trust them," she said.

Miss Roberts visits each home to assess what the volunteers will be doing there. She tries to assign volunteers to homes near their residences.

The volunteers go through a brief orientation the day of the cleanup. "We make sure they understand some of the dynamics of working with the elderly and seniors and what's expected and what's not expected of them," said Miss Roberts.

"It's important for both sides to be comfortable with what's going on," she said.

Miss Roberts encourages the volunteers to bring rakes and other lawn care tools to the jobs.

Anyone interested in volunteering for this year's Peoplecare fall cleanup can call Miss Roberts at 433-1089.