By Chris Jensen
By the end of the year, the North Country is expected to become part of the growing nationwide Village-to-Village Network, which is largely being created by seniors to help other seniors live independently.
The new North Country “village” is called Organized Acts of Kindness for Seniors (OAKS), said Kay Kerr, a Bethlehem resident, who played a key role in its formation.
And Kerr said after three years of planning, she expects the non-profit to be operating by the end of the year.
The idea is to offer services to folks generally 55 and older, including social events and companionship, assistance with chores like cleaning or running an errand, referrals to health agencies and suggesting trustworthy companies for home repairs.
“Everybody needs help at some point or another,” said Kerr. “It doesn’t have to be an older invalid. You might get the flu and can’t get out and you live by yourself.”
“I think depression is a big thing up here and depression comes from aging and isolation,” said Kerr.” If we can increase the quality of somebody’s life by doing something kind for them, I think that is a big thing.”
OAKS will also be a clearinghouse for information about health agencies and groups that provide valuable services, said Laura Clerkin, who’s also working on the project.
“I see OAKS being the go-to person, because I think there are a lot of services here that offer something, but people don’t know about them,” Clerkin said.
OAKS will rely on volunteers and its services will be available to members who will pay an annual fee. It will be on a sliding scale, Kerr said, but the amount has yet to be determined.
OAKS is currently conducting a survey to learn more about the needs of seniors and the interests of volunteers. It is available online. Or for a printed copy or information about OAKS, call 603-575-5502 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Hampshire already has five villages, but none is above the notches. The others are in Lyme, Keene, Jaffrey, New London and Nashua.
OAKS is part of a national group called the Village-to-Village Network. It has about 230 “villages” and another 130 under development, said executive director Natalie Galucia.
They have about 40,000 members, most of whom are at least 50 years old.
Galucia said the villages are grassroots operations, often formed by Baby Boomers who like “being able to take control of planning this organization that is going to help meet their needs.”
The villages are intended to offer a range of services. “It is a one-stop shop or one call does it all. They are able to get that social interaction, educational activities and find other resources in their community,” Galucia said.
The first village – in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood – enrolled its first members in 2002.
InDepthNH.org is NH’s nonprofit news website published online by the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism. Veteran journalist Chris Jensen covers the North Country and can be reached at email@example.com(603-869-5451)