Sunday, March 22, 2009

Touch Their Lives, They'll Touch Your Heart

Years ago, while working on my graduate degree, I taught the elderly in convalescent care for a school district. The object was to provide mental stimulation and slow the progession of degeneration. There were eleven teachers in the program and we would rotate through the hospitals each year. We were required to follow a basic education curriculum (math, english, history, music, science, etc.) and eventually I wrote the guidebook for new teachers. I look back on that time with fond memories, it ranks as one of the most favorite jobs of my life.

I learned so much from those patient-students. I loved the stories they would tell of the roarding twenties or how they made it through the depression. I learned a great deal about death as I would report to work to find one of my students had died during the night and it was my job to deliver the news to the class. I have never known such appreciation for everything little thing I did.

Carrie Harnish of Bridging Communities, Inc. provides a description of the amazing programs for the elderly (and youth) in Southwest Detroit. On their website it says "Touch Their Lives, They'll Touch Your Heart." No truer words can ever be said about working with our elders. Bunnie

Bridging Communities, Inc.
by Carrie Harnish, Executive Director

Bridging Communities in Southwest Detroit serves the homebound elders and is rebuilding the community around them because we believe that the quality of life for an elder is directly related to the quality of their community. We use volunteer services to provide the pinnacle of compassionate, complete, and cost-effective service to assist an elder in remaining in the community of their choice while we additionally provide top-quality independent living facilities and community revitalization services for Southwest Detroit neighborhoods.
We believe that it requires a village to support an elder and offer services to support the entire lifespan and strengthen the village. Our programs are divided into the following manner:

Our eldercare program offers professional assessments for the elderly and utilizes the gifts and talents of volunteers from across Michigan to fulfill each identified need. Our services range from case management to volunteer services such as friendly visiting, supportive transportation, minor home repairs, and much, much more.

Our intergenerational program focuses on the circle of learning between the generations. By bringing elders together with young people, we are breaking down barriers. As a result of our programs, the elders are exhibiting less fear, while the young people are demonstrating greater amounts of respect as a result of learning life lessons from the elders.

Our community organizing work has strengthened the neighborhoods around the elders, allowing them to come out of their homes and interact with their neighbors, walk to the local markets, and be a part of the community again.

Our development program has built two affordable senior housing projects, the Pablo Davis Elder Living Center and Heritage Place at Magnolia and the twenty-four Springwells Village Townhomes with specialized services for grandparents raising their grandchildren. We also transform vacant properties into resident-owned homes, develop in-fill housing, and work to build an Intergenerational Center.

For twenty-nine years, we have led Detroit in creative collaboration and innovative programming to meet the needs of the elders and their surrounding neighborhoods. We are the leader in grass-roots, volunteer-based, home-bound eldercare in Detroit while working with the residents to create a community that one can live in for a lifetime.

BCI excels in utilizing the time and talents of volunteers. The challenges that we face come from decreasing funding for professional aging services with an increasing frail, aging, and significantly low-income population.

To contact Carrie, go to


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