The power of community collaboration may help thousands of older West Baltimore and Cherry Hill residents with everything from energy assistance to estate planning, thanks to a partnership between 12 organizations and a $450,000 grant from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation.
The Senior Connections Community Outreach partners, convened by Catholic Charities, will work through houses of worship in the community to identify and assist seniors in need. The collaboration includes services provided by Access Hears; the Alzheimer’s Association; Baltimore City Health Department’s Division of Aging; Benefits Data Trust; Called to Care; Catholic Charities; Civic Works; the Maryland Consumer Rights Council; the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service; the Maryland Office of the People’s Council; Meals On Wheels; and 211 services.
“Simply put, better access to wellness and resources can make a huge difference in the lives of older adults,” said Catholic Charities Executive Director Bill McCarthy. “This is the person-centered care we all believe in.”
Catholic Charities’ goal is to involve 100 houses of worship of all faiths in West Baltimore and Cherry Hill. Catholic Charities is committed to a city-wide program, but this area was chosen for the pilot because it has the lowest life expectancy rates in Baltimore City – a challenge that exists in part because of less access to resources.
Each participating faith community will receive a comprehensive resource kit, including forms for renter’s and homeowner’s tax credits; HUD senior housing applications; medication management and prescription payment assistance; hearing aid device assistance; information on available benefits; legal estate planning help, including property deed transfer planning; energy assistance; senior water discounts and more. The churches and our partners will distribute and help fill out the forms, and educate older adults about their options.
“It’s a one-stop resource for the kinds of comprehensive services older Baltimoreans need to age safely and happily at home,” said Catholic Charities Senior Services Division Director Arnold Eppel.
“We see this is as a very important role to really access and support our older adults in the community,” said Baltimore City Health Department Assistant Commissioner of Aging Elouise Mayne.
The Senior Connections Community Outreach program is for underserved older Baltimoreans as well as those who need more information to make the right decisions for themselves and their families.
“As we see families coming together and having conversations around estate planning, many other topics come up as well,” said John Kern, an advanced planning project coordinator with the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. “It’s fantastic to open up more doors to those answers.”
The innovative initiative was made possible through a $450,000 grant from the Weinberg Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the U.S. and a leader in grantmaking to support low-income and vulnerable older adults.
“The Foundation supports programs and projects that allow older adults to age independently, within their communities, and with maximum quality of life,” said Aaron Merki, managing director for Programs and Grants. “A key way to accomplish these goals is through partnerships with faith-based communities. We’re excited about this local initiative and to see the impact we can make together.”