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Outreach efforts to target seniors in Chester and Portola

Delaine Fragnoli
Managing Editor
10/12/11

What if you could guarantee that you would receive certain services in your old age that would allow you to continue to live on your own — at no cost?

That’s precisely what Plumas Rural Services (PRS) is proposing to do with its time bank, Community Connections. The idea is elegant in its simplicity. Today, while you’re still able-bodied, you provide services to others and bank your hours for your own time of need.

The idea is so compelling that the Archstone Foundation has granted $100,000 to PRS over two years for further development of its existing time bank.

The money will allow PRS to grow its hub-and-spoke model, referred to in the trade as a “hybrid village model.” The nonprofit’s “hub,” or headquarters, is in Quincy, but the group serves the whole county. The grant will let the group expand its outreach and presence in the Lake Almanor and Portola areas, the “spokes.”

“We will be looking for a community leader in Chester,” said Leslie Wall, coordinator of Community Connections. “This is a paid position.”

Now in its fourth year, Community Connections has quadrupled in size. The time bank works like this: would-be members fill out an application and pay a $20 fee (yearly renewal is $5). They specify what services they can provide — everything from dog walking to transportation for a doctor’s appointment. PRS runs a background check on all applicants. If a member needs a service, Wall sends out a notification to other members who have indicated they can provide the service. Everything is confidential and no one is ever compelled to participate. If you provide a service, you bank the hours. If you need a service, you spend hours. All members’ time is credited equally.

For those approaching their older years, Community Connections can serve as a kind of savings account. “You’re time banking way in advance,” said Wall. “Think of it like a 401K.”

A senior who has previously banked hours can count on someone providing vital services like snow removal or wood cutting, which may allow seniors to continue to live independently.

Although the grant will help PRS target soon-to-be seniors, Wall is quick to point out that Community Connections serves everyone. Members range in age from 6 years old to 93. The 6-year-old (juniors join for free but need parental approval) helped bottle feed sick kittens at the animal shelter. The 93-year-old does craft preparation for teachers.

The idea of banking hours against future needs also works for those who know surgery or another disruptive event is on the horizon.

Wall said the time bank helps fill the needs of those with small children, too.

The net effect is to “broaden the concept of community across the county,” said Wall. It also gives someone like the 93-year-old member, who is housebound, a feeling of belonging and worth.

In addition to reaching out to all corners of the county, Wall said she would like to tap into and support the business community, to have, for example, an attorney or an electrician available for more involved needs.

Community Connections already works with sponsors, like the county library, county museum, schools, chambers, visitors bureau and others. Sponsors, who pay a $100 annual fee and do not provide services, are able to call on members when they need volunteers for events.

While PRS works to increase the capacity and sustainability of the Plumas County community, the Archstone grant will ensure that the nonprofit gets the support it needs to continue its efforts. In addition to the $100,000 award, PRS will receive individual support, group convenings, regular conference calls and peer-to-peer learning opportunities.

Training in business planning, marketing, sustaining growth and viability, creating and managing strategic partnerships, and designing member programs, services and benefits is all included in the award.

Wall heads to a nationwide convention at the end of this month.

For more information on Community Connections, call Wall at 530-283-3611 or visit plumasruralservices.org and click on Services and then on Community Connections.


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