What Needs to Happen Before the Launch of Direct Services to Members

When doing “Village 101” presentations, we tell people that we are hoping to launch direct services to Eastside Village members in the Fall of 2014.  Since that’s over 18 months away, it’s important for us to also explain all the things that need to happen before we can launch—both so people understand why we’re not starting these services sooner and so they know what we need their help with (financially and otherwise) to get Eastside Village off the ground.

As you can see from the list below, there’s a lot to do and a lot of ways to be involved.  We’re fond of saying, “It takes a Village to age-in-place.”   It seems to be equally true that “It takes a village to make a Village.”

So, here’s what’s on our agenda for the next 18 months:

  • Widely publicize the Village throughout each of the neighborhoods in our service area.
  • Build a community of volunteers to plan and execute all activities leading up to launch.
  • Survey residents of our service area (May 2013) and analyze the results to determine the Village’s programs & services.
  • Develop and host social activities & educational programs for potential members & volunteers throughout the next 18 months. (We’re actually going to launch the Village in stages, with these pieces happening first)
  • Recruit members of the founding Board of Directors, write & adopt bylaws, and finalize the organization’s governance structure.
  • Write the Village’s business plan.
  • Raise funds needed to cover all pre-service launch and start-up expenses (including any costs needed to hold fundraising events).
  • Raise one year’s operating expenses to have in reserve.
  • Write volunteer training manual and organizational policies & procedures manual.
  • Recruit & train volunteers to deliver services post-launch.
  • Complete research of all organizations currently delivering services to seniors and people with disabilities inside our service area.
  • Vet vendors to deliver services post-launch & negotiate members’ discount with them.
  • Negotiate relationships & discounts with strategic partners (i.e. homecare providers).
  • Recruit members.
  • Rent affordable office space and put in place office technology.
  • Hire Executive Director and Volunteer Coordinator.
  • Widely publicize launch

Obviously, this isn’t everything that needs doing, but it’s more than enough detail for people who are attending “Village 101” presentations.  Anything more and it just becomes overwhelming—which is definitely NOT recommended as a volunteer recruiting strategy!

It Takes a Lot of Volunteers to Make a Village

People often think that volunteers aren’t really needed until you launch the Village and begin delivering services to paying members.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  The process of developing and promoting the Village is “volunteer heavy,” as this list of current Eastside Village volunteer opportunities demonstrates. And the list doesn’t even include developing the community needs assessment survey, building the website, delivering Village 101 presentations, or the countless other tasks already being done by Planning Group members!

Still, this list should give you a pretty good idea about the type of tasks that need doing at this stage of the Village development process and how many volunteers we hope to recruit to do them.

Home Hosts:  Invite your friends and neighbors to Village 101 informational meetings you host in your home.  We’ll provide the presenter/you provide the guests & refreshments.

Community Builders: Follow-up with people who attend presentations or who signed-up through the website. Discover their needs & interests, how they might volunteer, skills & talents they have to offer. Make sure they’re on the Village email list and invited to social activities and educational programs. Introduce self in person at events.

Volunteer Recruiting & Placement:  EastsideVillage, PDX operates primarily with volunteers—not just after we open and need volunteers to deliver services to members, but right now in the development phase. So, volunteer recruitment is a MAJOR priority!  This volunteer position works with the Community Builders to find the right volunteer activities for new people; keeps track of the type of volunteers that are needed and gets that information to all the PR/Outreach people to publicize; brainstorms & implements strategies for recruiting additional volunteers; and contacts existing volunteers to ask for their help when/where needed.

Volunteer Tracking: We need to keep track of all our volunteers and their hours for grant writing purposes—in addition to being able to thank them for everything they do!  To do this, we need a volunteer tracker who will set up and maintain a tracking system so we know who is doing what and how often they are doing it.

Survey Team Members (Spring 2013):  Help our Program & Services Committee with the surveying process by helping to brainstorm group/sites to assist with survey process; reaching out to those groups/sites to request their help; delivering surveys to & collecting them from participating groups/sites; assisting at survey events & focus groups.

Social Event Team:  Do you like to plan and host potlucks, holiday celebrations, and social gatherings?  If so, this is the volunteer slot for you! Social events are an essential, ongoing part of the Village, so we need a team of socially-inclined folks to plan fun, community-building social events, find low/no cost sites, and coordinate all the details, including volunteers, set-up, clean-up, activities/programming, and food.

Educational Programming Team:  Another ongoing part of the Village is educational programs, speaker/lecture series, and discussion groups, covering a wide range of topics of potential interest to our members.  So we need a team of folks to plan this kind of programming, find low/no cost sites to hold them at, and coordinate all the details, including recruiting volunteer presenters, set-up/clean-up help, AV equipment & support.

Food & Snacks Team: Are you a whiz at grocery shopping? Do you love to bake and cook?  Are you the person who usually takes care of the refreshments? If so, we need you to be part of the team that plans, buys, prepares and sets up the refreshments for Village 101 presentations and educational programs.

Newsletter Writers/Editors: We need writers/editors to put together the copy & photos for email and print newsletters (going out 4-6x per year), describing the progress of Eastside Village PDX, recruiting volunteers, and inviting people to upcoming Village 101 presentations, social activities, educational programs, and fundraising events.

Poster/Flyer Distribution: We’ll be making posters and flyers to get the word out about EastsideVillage and upcoming Village 101 presentations, social activities, educational programs, and fundraising events. So we need your help to identify locations and get them distributed and displayed on bulletin boards and in shop windows throughout the neighborhoods inside our boundaries.

Get us on the Web: Help promote upcoming Village 101 presentations, social activities, and educational programs by getting them into online calendars & listservs, promoting them via social media, and sending the info about them to groups/organizations for their websites & e-newsletters.

Media Liaison/Press Release Specialist: Write and send out monthly press releases highlighting upcoming Village events open to the public, including Village 101 presentations, social activities, and educational programs.  Expand on and maintain press list.  Follow-up with media after sending releases. Develop story angles and ways to get more media coverage/exposure.

Tabling: (Seasonal/late Spring/Summer 2013) We have received grant funding to do outreach at many of the festivals and street fairs that occur within our boundaries (i.e. Clinton, Belmont, Hawthorne), but we need an outgoing team of volunteers to staff the tables (probably in shifts), and do the set-up and tear down.

PR/Outreach to Faith Communities: Identify and help make connections/partnerships with the faith-based organizations inside the EastsideVillage boundaries. Set up opportunities to meet with their leaders; do presentations to their members; enlist their help to promote the Village; keep them informed about upcoming Village programs open to the public; figure out ways we can be mutually supportive.  Also, identify any that have low/no cost space we can use for programs and/or which might be suitable as the site for the Village office.

PR/Outreach to Neighborhood Associations: Help make connections/partnerships with the 13 neighborhood associations inside the EastsideVillage boundaries. Set up opportunities to meet with their leaders; do presentations to their members; enlist their help to promote the Village; keep them informed about upcoming Village programs open to the public; figure out ways we can be mutually supportive.

PR/Outreach to Senior Organizations/Programs: Identify and help make connections/ partnerships with all the senior centers/organizations inside the EastsideVillage boundaries (or serving EV residents). Set up opportunities to meet with their leaders; do presentations to their members; enlist their help to promote the Village; keep them informed about upcoming Village programs open to the public; figure out ways we can be mutually supportive.

PR/Outreach to Community Groups: Identify and help make connections/partnerships with general (not just senior-focused) community groups inside the EastsideVillage boundaries whose members might be interested in our work. Set up opportunities to meet with their leaders; do presentations to their members; enlist their help to promote the Village; keep them informed about upcoming Village programs open to the public; figure out ways we can be mutually supportive.

PR/Outreach to Business Community: PR/Outreach to Community Groups: Identify and help make connections/partnerships with all the neighborhood business associations inside EastsideVillage boundaries. Set up opportunities to meet with their leaders; do presentations to their members; enlist their help to promote the Village; keep them informed about upcoming Village programs open to the public; figure out ways we can be mutually supportive.  Also, identify businesses inside our boundaries that would potentially be good “Village Supporters” for the Fundraising Committee & help them connect with the owners.

Business Plan Developers: If you have a strong background in financial or business planning, we need your help to develop and write the Village’s business plan.

Fundraising Events Team: If you have interest in or experience planning fundraising events, we need your skills to put together a series of diverse, fun, creative events/activities to raise the funds needed prior to launch.  Help research events/activities that have been done successfully by other Villages across the country and figure out how to adapt them for EastsideVillage, PDX.  Recruit sponsors/underwriters/event partners. Plan and manage event logistics and volunteers. Solicit in-kind donations. Lots to do here and lots of help needed!

Speakers, Musicians, Comedians, Chefs, Other Talent: Got talents to donate either in an educational program or at a fundraising event? If so, EastsideVillage needs you!

Founding Board Members: Later in 2013 we will be recruiting members for the Founding Board of Directors.  Stay tuned for information about the skill set, experience and expertise we are looking for in the first, critically important Board members.

Planning Group Members: The Eastside Village Planning Group meets approximately once per month (plus committee meetings) and is open to anyone who is interested in planning and committee work.

As you can see, there’s lots to do, and we hope to find lots and lots of volunteers to help do it. There’s an old saying: “Many hands make light work.”  This seems to be particularly true when developing a Village.  I am also hoping that “The more, the merrier” also applies.

If you live on the eastside of Portland and are interested in any of these volunteer opportunities, please email info@EastsideVillage.org.  Your hands and help will be most welcome.

Why Did You Draw the Line THERE? The Problems with Village Boundaries

Our planning group recently sent out an email announcing the Eastside Village, PDX project and inviting people to come to a “Village 101” informational presentation to learn more about it.  One of the pieces of information included in the email was the boundaries of the area that will be served by Eastside Village, PDX.

Since the announcement went to everyone on our email list regardless of where they live, we knew that some of the people receiving it would be outside the Eastside Village boundaries.   But what we didn’t anticipate was the number of emails we would get from people living only slightly outside the boundaries wanting to know why we “drew the line” where we did.

Each of the emails pointed out that there were seniors living outside our boundaries who would benefit from Eastside Village services & support.  Each of the emails asked why we couldn’t just extend the boundaries a bit more.  And several of them pointed out how under-served their area is compared to some of the neighborhoods which are included in the Eastside Village service area.

We did our best to send back a thoughtful response to everyone who wrote.  We didn’t mention how emotionally difficult it is to set boundaries, knowing as you do that this will result in people who are inside the lines and people who are not, and that this is not a commentary on how much those on the outside  need the services or how deserving they are of having a Village in their neighborhood.  It’s about manageability—what the Village can reasonably address—-and about where the Village’s  founders happen to live.   Because whether you want to or not, in a city the size of Portland, you have to draw the lines somewhere.  The Portland metro area is too big to be served by a single village.  It would be unmanageable and ineffective.

It didn’t help, of course, that we would like to be able to help everyone and that we understand both how well considered and how relatively arbitrary the boundaries really are.  I suppose we could have said, “These are only ‘working boundaries’ so maybe we’ll decide to include your neighborhood further down the road.”  It’s not like that’s impossible.  A number of Villages across the country have expanded their boundaries to include more neighborhoods than they originally started with.  Of course, in most of those cases they started out too small and needed to expand in order to survive, which is not the case with Eastside Village, which is starting with a very large service area.  But it might happen….

What we did say instead was the following:

1. The village boundaries were set by vote of the entire planning group, after studying census numbers and considering “natural” and neighborhood boundaries.

2.  In the process of studying villages nationwide, we learned that about 10-12K seniors in an area is the right size for a urban village. So we chose an area that has that number of senior residents.

3. Grassroots villages are formed and run by people who live inside the Village’s boundaries. So, as you would expect, virtually all our planning group members live in one of the neighborhoods covered by Eastside Village, PDX and that helped determine where our boundaries fell.  For example, two of our planning group members live in the Mill Park neighborhood.  So that helped determine our Eastern boundary.  If they had lived in different neighborhoods, we would probably have settled on slightly different boundaries (while still shooting to achieve the 10-12K seniors number)

4. The street that is our south boundary is also the southern boundary for three of the neighborhoods that are part of Eastside Village, PDX.  So it is a natural ending point.  If we had extended to the next major boulevard south as you asked, we would have been able to include all of your neighborhood, but would have bisected two other neighborhoods—–who then might reasonably have asked us to extend even farther south so that all of their neighborhood would be included.

5.  In terms of need, there is as much argument to be made about the problems of cutting off a village at our eastern boundary as there is at our southern boundary, since there are many, many seniors in need living further east.  But you have to draw the boundaries somewhere.  Trying to put all of Portland’s east side into one village would be unmanageable and, in the long run, counter-productive.

6. We hope Eastside Village, PDX will be the FIRST village on Portland’s east side, but not the ONLY one. Some of us are very willing to help start a “sister” village to the south which would include your neighborhood.  But  in order to get that going  you need to find a few residents of your neighborhood (and surrounding neighborhoods) to host Village 101 informational parlor meetings.  Through those parlor meetings, you will attract a core group of people to make up your village’s founding team/planning group.  So find those people to host and we will be glad to come down, make a Village 101 presentation, and help get the ball rolling.

I don’t think what we said was unreasonable or unsympathetic.  I very much fear it wasn’t what any of the people who wrote wanted to hear.  It would have been easier if we just extended the boundaries.  It would have been easier if they didn’t have to build a planning group and mobilize their neighborhoods into action.  But since that’s precisely what every neighborhood has to do to build a Village in the first place, it’s a pretty good indicator of whether or not their area can develop and sustain a Village in the long run.

What’s in a name? When is a “Village” not a village?

Once upon a time, a village was just a small city.  Nothing fancy. Larger than a hamlet, but smaller than a town. But then the real estate developers got hold of the term and started cranking out “Tanesbourne Village” and “Village by the Sea” to refer to planned real estate developments—–many of them retirement communities. So now you can hardly say the word “village” without people thinking you’re talking about a man-made, mortar and bricks real estate project.

That not what we mean when we talk about Eastside Village PDX or the national Village movement.    In our parlance, a “Village” is not a real estate development or a retirement community.    Rather, it is a group of like-minded people living in the same geographic area who have come together to figure out and develop the resources they need to age comfortably in their own homes.

No new facility gets constructed. Village members continue to live in their own homes and can be homeowners, renters, seniors sharing housing or living with relatives.  What they all have in common is that their homes are located somewhere within the geographic boundaries/service delivery area of the Village (but rarely adjacent) and they have all chosen to join the Village in order to have a cost-effective way of being able to age-in-community.

What does get “built” is (1) a supportive and caring community and (2) a structured network of support whose purpose if to enable Village members to successfully age-in-place.  Villages do this by providing the help people need to be able to age in place, but can no longer safely do themselves.   Examples include: climbing on ladders to change a light bulb, doing yard work, driving at night, spring cleaning, simple home repairs, transportation to & assistance with grocery shopping.

The first Village—Beacon Hill Village in Boston—began a decade ago when 12 older adults joined forces to create a way for them to age at home and remain independent as long as possible.  There are now over 90 Villages nationwide with over 120 more in development.  Most Villages nationwide are organized into self-governing, nonprofit membership organizations run by a Board of Directors elected by the Village members. They support themselves by a combination of fees, grants and fundraising.

 About Village Services: 

  •  Villages tend to be “volunteer first,” which means that they preferentially uses volunteers to deliver services
  • Villages provide “one call does it all” support & problem solving for their members
  • Villages do not duplicate existing services. They make it their business to know everything being offered by other nonprofits, senior centers, government agencies, how to utilize and where there are service gaps
  • Volunteers provide most of the transportation, shopping, household chores, gardening, and light home repairs & maintenance for members.
  • Villages also build relationships and develop community through social activities including potluck dinners, book clubs, exercise/wellness activities, and educational programs.
  • Carefully chosen vendors provide professional home repairs, usually at a discounted rate of 20-50% for members
  • Carefully chosen institutional & business partners provide home health care services (when/if needed), usually at discounted rates of 20-40%

Villages are networks of support that foster successful interdependent aging in community.  They are neighbor helping neighbor. And, for the 89% of older adults who preferentially want to age in their own homes in the neighborhoods they know and love, they can be the answer to their prayers.

Deciding on Our Village’s Mission and Values

One of the tasks the Eastside Village’s planning group recently took on was to develop mission and values statements for our Village.  These tasks can be painful and exhausting, if group members insist on going round and round endlessly wordsmithing each line, or if there is a great difference of opinion in your planning group over what your purpose and values should be.

We were fortunate not to have those problems.  A small subcommittee took on the task of collecting mission and values statements from other Villages and used them to draft proposed statements for our Village.  This was accomplished by an initial face-to-face meeting followed by discussion and  revision via email.  When the subcommittee had a “first draft” they were satisfied with, it was sent out to the entire planning group–along with the mission and values statements from other Villages—so they could study the examples and draft before our next  planning group meeting.

At the planning group meeting, we discussed what worked for us in the draft and what changes and additions we thought needed to be made.  The subcommittee took the group’s input and used it to make additions and modifications.  The revised mission and values statements were then emailed out to the entire group for feedback. And after one or two final tweaks, we were done.

We were greatly assisted in this process by the group’s willingness to see these as “working” documents, which we might decide to amend or improve down the road.  Our goal was to come up with the best version we could “for now” but to remain open to the possibility that we might see things differently as we continue through the Village development process and that, if that happened, we could always revisit and change them.   This reminds me of the saying “Don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good” and don’t operate as if every decision is set in stone.  It’s okay to grow and change and refine as you move forward and learn more.

So, what did we come up with as Eastside Village, PDX’s working mission and vision statements?   Here they are:

Our Mission and Values

The mission of Eastside Village, PDX is to build a strong, lasting, intergenerational community and to engage and coordinate a network of trained volunteers and high quality service providers to ensure that our members are able to age at home and in community safely, affordably, happily and healthily for as long as they choose.


Eastside Village, PDX is guided by the following values:

Enabling people to age in community and do “as much for as little cost for as long as possible.” To that end, we are a “volunteer first” village that develops smart, practical cost-effective ways to address our members’ needs.

Recognizing and celebrating our mutual interdependence and our lasting commitment to each other over time.

Fostering community and building strong, caring relationships.

Appreciating the richness and diversity of our EastsideVillage, PDX neighborhoods.

Being inclusive of and welcoming to people of all ages, races, faiths, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and gender identities, and socio-economic levels.

Treasuring the willingness of the members of our Village and the wider community to volunteer their time and expertise in support of our mission, and striving to ensure that volunteers’ work with EastsideVillage, PDX is always meaningful and appreciated.

Valuing inter-generational connections as an integral part of village life.

Honoring the privacy, dignity, and independence of our members and volunteers.

Protecting the security of our members and volunteers in dealing with vendors and service providers.

Valuing the advice and opinions of our members and regularly soliciting their feedback on village programming and volunteer & vendor services.

Fostering a climate of growth, exploration and lifelong learning in our community.

Valuing and actively seeking opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships and collaboration.

Creating a village that is owned by its members and stewarded by community-elected servant leaders.

Being transparent in our decision making and honest in all our dealings.

Being innovative and agile with our programs and services; staying abreast of new approaches and technologies; responding gracefully to changing times and evolving member needs.

Being committed to enduring and sustainable growth and the wise and prudent use of all EastsideVillage, PDX resources.

Do you have an elderly parent that still drives? Check out these AAA resources for older drivers

Transportation is one of the most requested Village services nationwide—in particular, transportation to night events, during bad weather, and when heavy traffic or freeway driving is the only option.   What this suggests—and is confirmed by this report from AAA—is that many older adults who still drive voluntarily avoid high-risk driving situations:

“Helping to dispel the all-too-common myth that seniors are dangerous drivers, AAA’s survey  indicates that motorists age 65 and older often “self-police” their driving or avoid driving situations that put them at greater risk of a crash. In fact, 80 percent of senior drivers voluntarily avoid one or more high-risk driving situations. More than half (61 percent) of these drivers avoid driving in bad weather; 50 percent avoid night driving; 42 percent avert trips in heavy traffic and 37 percent avoid unfamiliar roads.”

Obviously, this is a good thing.  But how do you know when that’s not enough and it’s time to give up the car altogether?  Apparently AAA has some online resources and educational programs that can help with making that decision:

AAA offers helpful resources for older adults and their families—working to support them as they tackle the challenge of balancing safety and mobility. SeniorDriving.AAA.com provides convenient, online access to a wealth of interactive material and AAA’s Senior Driver Safety Expos offer a local hands-on opportunity to sample AAA’s suite of free tools and programs including:

· AAA Roadwise Review – A computer-based screening tool that allows older drivers to measure changes in their functional abilities scientifically linked to crash risk.

· CarFit – A community-based program that offers older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles “fit” them for maximum comfort and safety.

· Smart Features for Mature Drivers – A guide to help identify vehicle features that can assist drivers with the visual, physical and mental changes that are frequently encountered as they age.”

via Do you have an elderly parent that still drives? AAA just released a new report and advice that I think is worth a read…. | LinkedIn.

When the time to give up driving finally comes, I think being a member of a Village can make all the difference in how much of a hardship this turns out to be.

Why? Because, unless you’re on a major transportation line or a live in a highly walkable neighborhood with all the amenities close by, fear of losing mobility can make you hold onto the car keys longer than you should.   But if you’re a member of a Village, the Village office will not only know all the free/low-cost transportation options available and be able to help you access them, they will also have village transportation volunteers to help fill the gaps and ensure you can get where you need to go. So less stress, less hardship, less loss.

Golden Girls Go Home: A Twin Cities organization touts the affordability — and fun — of shared housing arrangements

  While searching for more information about Golden Girls homes as a housing option, I came across this article about a Minneapolis organization that helps older single/divorced/widowed women find or create affordable shared housing.  Seems like something that would benefit “women of a certain age” from coast-to-coast, and not dissimilar to what Michele Fiasca is trying to do locally with her website “Let’s Share Housing Together.”

Anyway, here is the article for you to enjoy and hopefully be inspired by:

“The ’80s TV sitcom The Golden Girls  gave Connie Skillingstad a good idea: older women who live together. Skillingstad is founder of Golden Girl Homes, a group that helps older widows, divorcees, and otherwise single women find or create alternative, affordable shared housing.

‘Golden Girls is about helping open up the options for women,’ says Skillingstad.  Formed in 2001, the Twin Cities-based nonprofit is based on the  premise that older women want, need, and deserve more diverse housing options than senior housing facilities or solitary living. For many women it is not financially feasible to purchase and maintain a house on their own, and single living may leave them feeling lonely and disconnected.

‘A lot of women are interested in living in communities,’ says Skillingstad, a 59-year-old social worker. ‘The senior housing that’s being built by developers is too expensive, and many women don’t want to live in a senior housing complex.’

The Golden Girls solution is not so much matching up potential roommates as it is helping with the logistics of shared housing. To this end, the group, which includes about 200 women whose ages range from 40 into the 80s, meets monthly to discuss everything from the legal issues of these new-style households to the practicalities of living with people other than family. They are currently working to create a list of questions that potential roommates can ask each other to gauge their compatibility.”

via Golden Girls Go Home.