Eric Ehst, executive director
It’s hard to believe, but Neighbors Who Care (NWC) is finishing up its 25th year of service. In November 1994, some Sun Lakes residents noticed that many of their neighbors could no longer drive to the grocery store, and they banded together to help out. With the support of the Interfaith Council of Greater Sun Lakes, the first volunteer rides started in January 1995, and Neighbors Helping Neighbors was born. Initially, it was an all-volunteer effort, just providing shopping help to residents of Sun Lakes and SunBird.
Ever since that humble beginning, it’s been a ride in the whirlwind. They have been through three office moves, a name change (to prevent confusion with existing organizations), and have expanded to serve Sun Lakes and all of Chandler south of Queen Creek Road. Grocery shopping has become only a small part of what they do for our frail and homebound neighbors. They now also provide transportation to medical appointments, evening meal delivery, business assistance, minor home repairs, daily reassurance calls, friendly visiting, respite care, welfare visits, scheduled shopping van service, hospital discharge support, case management and referrals, senior center at home connections, caregiver support groups, and educational programs. They also partner in a weekly memory café (one of the first in Arizona) for dementia sufferers and their caregivers.
Over those 25 years, NWC volunteers have donated over 375,000 hours of their time, driven 2,500,000 miles in their cars, delivered 140,000 hot meals, and helped a neighbor on 360,000 occasions.
The real story is the people that they help. Each year, they provide direct services to about 700 people and indirect support to many more. What they do allows our neighbors to continue living independently in their own homes for as long as feasible. Their average client has been receiving our support for over five years. That’s five years longer they’re able to live at home and not be forced into an institution or have to move in with family. Their longest-served client has been receiving our help for 23 years, and their oldest client was in our program for 17 years and only had to give up her home a couple of months shy of her 105th birthday.
NWC has not only grown in size and scope, but they have won a number of prestigious awards and become a recognized leader in the fast-growing aging in place movement.
As the population continues to age (over 85 is the fastest growing demographic), the need for NWC continues to grow. They add 30 new clients needing help each month, which stretches their resources, both volunteers and money. So, if you have a little time, NWC would like to offer you the deep satisfaction that comes from helping your neighbors. You can work on your own schedule with no minimum requirement. And, if you have a little money to help out this holiday season, NWC can use that, too. Contact NWC at 480-895-7133, or you can visit their website at www.neighborswhocare.com.