Last month, the American Red Cross was one of many partners that helped the Seniors Resource Center distribute 100 Emergency Kits to seniors in Jefferson County. Red Cross was part of a much larger program through the Aging Well Project in Jefferson County, a group that works to identify and address the many issues seniors in Jefferson County face in their day-to-day lives. Fellow members of the committee include DRCOG, Adult Protective Services, JeffCo Long Term Care, JeffCo Public Health, Volunteers of America, and Seniors Resource Center.
Recently, the Aging Well Project committee decided to focus on emergency preparedness for seniors and invited the Red Cross to help with planning. As a result, Red Cross was able to provide first aid kits for inclusion in the 100 Emergency Preparedness Kits that were distributed. The other parts of the Emergency Preparedness Kit items were donated by members of the committee and community partners. Items such as flashlights, batteries, weather radios, water bottles, and hand sanitizer were included in the kits in addition to first aid supplies.
More importantly, the Red Cross committed to training the volunteers and staff that make up the Aging Well Project committee in basic Emergency Preparedness for seniors. With this training, the people who delivered the Emergency Kits were able to talk to the 100 recipients about emergency preparedness. The recipients knew and trusted these people, as they were people who had helped them before via Seniors’ Resource Home Care Coordinators, Meals on Wheels volunteers and Adult Protective Services caseworkers.
The primary mission of the distribution was “to talk to seniors about having an exit plan in case of an emergency,” said Bob Schrant, Home Care Coordinator of the Seniors Resource Center.
The distributors were trained in how to talk to seniors about preparedness—about having a plan in case of disaster. This 'train-the-trainer' model allowed the team to get useful information from the American Red Cross and disseminate it further than the Red Cross ever could have on its own.
“A lot of these people don’t have family members to take care of them. They can easily be stranded in their homes because they live in such remote areas,” Schrant said, explaining how the Emergency Kit candidates were chosen. Most of the kits were given to isolated elderly people living in the small mountain towns of West Jefferson County. The kit’s contents—such as a bottle of water— were items crucial to survival in the event one is stranded.
The kit included a brochure which explained disaster preparedness and listed the most important basic needs in the event of a disaster. The information was discussed with the recipients at the time of deliveryy, allowing the them to voice any concerns they still had.
Some unexpected benefits came from this safety-based generosity as well. “To have someone come in and take the time to give you a gift,” Schrant said, “just touches peoples’ hearts.” Schrant reported that one woman just kept holding the objects in her hands, her eyes filling with tears.
At 70 years old, Schrant said the kits made him consider his own preparedness; he started taking note of crucial items he otherwise wouldn't have thought of. He ended his interview with by addressing the American Red Cross directly.
“Thank you for being there and thinking of all this stuff we may not have thought to include,” he said, “God bless you all.”
Learn more about the Aging Well Project on Jefferson County: http://jeffco.us/human-services/aging-and-adult-services/aging-well-project/