Tender Care Village needs volunteers before it can add new members
Marie Duncan has been living alone for 45 years and she’d like to continue to enjoy her “little view of the river” from her Kennewick home for as long as she can.
The 92-year-old credits the Tender Care Village for enabling her to remain independent at her own home.
“It’s just wonderful. I just can’t say enough about it. It’s impossible to imagine when you stop driving how many little things you need that car for,” she said.
The Kennewick-based nonprofit is part of a national network to help establish and manage communities wanting to offer aging-in-place initiatives called “villages” that pair seniors with volunteers.
For an annual fee, village members can tap into a network of screened volunteers for non-medical assistance, like rides to the grocery store or doctor’s appointments, light home maintenance, seasonal yard chores or companionship.
Since launching a year ago, Tender Care has assisted with 450 requests from seniors, with about 90 percent of those requests for transportation.
The group has 30 members and 30 volunteers.
But it can’t accept any more members until more volunteers sign on to help.
“I think I’m even more passionate about it now because I see that it’s working. Some of these people wouldn’t have any social life at all,” said Traci Wells, director and president of Tender Care Village.
Volunteers can pick and choose which “jobs” to do from an online list, from taking seniors to appointments, to grocery shopping to light housekeeping or yard work.
Recruiting more active volunteers is the network’s most critical need going forward, Wells said, adding that retirees would be great candidates to help.
“Finding volunteers is the hard thing. That is going to be the key to keeping this going,” she said.
Wells encourages anyone looking for a place to volunteer to send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Our volunteers choose the days and times they volunteer on a weekly basis. No set schedule,” she said.
Tender Village also seeks donated office space and licensed providers willing to offer members reduced rates for yard work, window cleaning, or other referral services.
But Wells emphasized the need for volunteers above all else.
“I hate to bring in too many members if we can’t fulfill their needs,” she said.
The network’s best niche is seniors who have just begun to lose their independence, she said.
“Those who just lost their driver’s license or spouse, or they need that extra little help so they can be out in the community, but they just need a ride,” Wells said.
The volunteer-member relationships tend to blossom into friendships. The group also provides opportunities for social interactions, like socials or exercise sessions like walks along the river.
“I really do want it to be a community mixed with volunteers,” Wells said.
She said her membership allows her to maximize her time with family without her feeling like she’s a burden to them.
“I tell you what. I have my family here, with their families, and I have really good relationships with them, but I felt like I was wearing them out and worried I was making them dread coming by,” Duncan said of her requests for assistance.
She said getting older requires more doctors’ appointments and errands. “The list goes on,” she said.
“Every time I put in my request, (volunteers) let me know what time and who will pick me up,” she said. “It’s just wonderful. I have all kinds of appointments and need things done around the house.”
Duncan said making friends with Tender Village volunteers has been a bonus.
“They are such nice people. Friendly, accommodating and cheerful. They’ve become friends, some of them. At my age, most of my older friends that I have chummed around with are gone. It leaves a big hole in your life,” she said.
Sharon Inscore of Kennewick signed up to be a Tender Care volunteer, as well as a member, about a year ago.
“I live by myself and you never know when something is going to happen,” said the 72-year-old, who hasn’t had to tap into the volunteer network until recently, as her arthritis has been acting up, she said.
Inscore recently asked for assistance with a 50-pound bag of salt for her water softener, flipping her mattress and moving her patio table and chairs.
“It’s a good community,” she said.
Inscore has helped those who need to get to their doctor appointments or with their shopping. She likes that she can select which jobs to perform.
“It’s non-pressure, which is really great, as opposed to set hours and driving every day across town,” she said.
“You also get to make personal connections — that’s good for me, as well as for them,” she said.