By Marcy Stamper
An organization that will match volunteers with people who need help with basic chores and services — such as meals, transportation or yard work — that help people stay in their own homes as they age has built basic infrastructure and signed up founding members.
Methow at Home would be a “virtual village,” where members can request help for periodic needs like transportation, household tasks, or respite for caregivers.
The organization is intended primarily for people over 50, but could also assist those who need short-term assistance after an illness or surgery, according to Ellen Lamiman, Methow at Home chair.
Methow at Home has been in the planning and development stages for two years. The board explored different models — including co-housing, where people live in an actual community and share tasks, tools and some meals — but settled on the virtual-village concept after polling community members. Most want to continue to live in their own home, said Lamiman.
Methow at Home currently has about 10 founding members and is seeking more. Members pay a small fee, which will fund a part-time volunteer coordinator, who will ensure requests for help — made online or by phone — are filled.
The group also hopes to provide referrals to professionals for tasks like plumbing that are beyond the scope of volunteers, said Lamiman.
The population in the Methow Valley is aging faster than the national average, said Lamiman. The group estimates that almost half of the Methow Valley’s 5,500 residents are over 50 (2,700), with 1,100 over 65, she said. They are basing their numbers on census data for the Methow Valley School District, which runs from Gold Creek to Mazama.
A Methow at Home survey drew almost 200 responses, and 87 percent said the idea was appealing. The biggest need, by far, was transportation, to appointments and for shopping, followed by help with light chores in the home or yard, said Lamiman.
Some members may also be volunteers, doing tasks they are comfortable with and receiving help with others, said Lamiman.
Like the Guardian Angels, Methow at Home is a program of The Cove. But the Guardian Angels builds long-term relationships by matching people with volunteers for social interaction as well as transportation and chores, said Lamiman.
“There’s a careful distinction here — these are the same kind of services you’d ask a family member or neighbor to help with,” said Lamiman. “It’s an organized way of helping your neighbor.”
Virtual villages usually need at least 40 members to be viable, said Lamiman. So, in a bit of a chicken-and-egg arrangement, Methow at Home is signing up members who ultimately want to participate but who are also willing to make an advance financial commitment to get the group off the ground, she said.
Methow at Home is holding an informational forum on Tuesday, March 31, at 7 p.m. at the Twisp River Pub to describe local needs, explain its vision, and present survey results. Organizers also seek input about how to tailor the program to best meet people’s needs. An optional dinner is available at 6 p.m. for $10.
For more information, call 996-5844 or visit www.methowathome.org. The survey is also available on the website.