INDIANAPOLIS — Several Indianapolis-area nonprofits are joining forces to make an impact helping seniors and those with disabilities in central Indiana.
"All of these organizations have really pulled together to make an impact on lives," Tauhric Brown, President and CEO of CICOA Aging & In Home Solutions said.
CICOA is now a part of the INdependence At Home Network along with Servants at Work, Inc. This also includes NeighborLink Indianapolis, Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity, The Shepherds Center of Hamilton County, Easterseals Crossroads, and Crooked Creek Community Development Corporation and Koreman, LLC.
"I can't tell people enough. If you need help reach out, it's there," Debby Jones said.
Jones has lived at her west side home for 25 years. She loves working in the yard, but over the last year, she's only left her porch when she absolutely needed to because she's scared her knees will give out and she will fall walking down her steps.
"All I have is that handrail there," Jones said. "I know it's just a few steps but when your knees don't work and every step is pain. I told my doctor, I said if that handrail ever gives out because that's where most of my weight went, I was going to be seriously hurt."
Jones was referred to CICOA which funded the cost for a wheelchair ramp built by Servants at Work (SAWS) in front of of her home.
"Oh, catch me if you can," she said "If I can get to my car, I can go, and I can get to my car."
According to AARP, 90% of Americans 60 and older prefer to live at home, but as they age, they struggle with home maintenance and need modifications to get around safely.
The organizations in the INdependence At Home Network complete about 1,000 home modifications a year. Now, by partnering together, they hope to increase that number and focus on high-risk neighborhoods.
"Having a collaborative like this stood up here in central Indiana really does allow each call that comes in to truly have a chance to add ramps or grab bars and handrails placed to help enhance safety and accessibility in and around the home," Brown said.
"Many, many of these people are shut in, they can't get out, they are disabled, they need help. You just listen to the joy that she now has and we have provided, it humbles you," Bob Richmond, SAWS Executive Director added.
Brown points out that at many times in one's aging journey, that the possibility of fall risk begins to appear and seniors need additional help getting up and down from the toilet or out of their home.
"So having great partners to really come together and say, here's the common goal; let's really work towards strengthening safety and accessibility in and around the homes of our older adults and people with disabilities," he said.
He said that often, the funding available for the work they do to help clients is enough to get started, but then they get more calls, and more funding is needed.
"We would hope as people see the story they go, you know what I'm thinking about my grandma, I'm thinking about my aging aunt who just began using a walker and they've got cement stairs on the front of their home and it might inspire them to give up their time, talent, or treasure to help us continue to move forward," Brown said.
SAWS currently has a backlog of 250 wheelchair ramps. Despite their work of building those 250 ramps in Indiana, 100 of those are in Marion County every year.
"We've got to keep the fundraising coming in," Richmond said. "We just can't get off that number, it seems like we build maybe six or seven ramps statewide every weekend and the number just keeps growing."
As for Jones, her new wheelchair ramp has given her back a sense of independence, something hasn't had for the last year.
"I don't have to have anybody with me to go anymore, I'm not worried about falling and being home alone," Jones said.