What began nine years ago as a simple team building exercise for staff turned into so much more.
William Anderson, vice president of business development at United Home Healthcare, recalled his first experience volunteering at CICOA’s annual Safe at Home event.
“One of my first tasks when I got hired at United Home Healthcare was to get more involved with the community. That’s when I reached out to CICOA and learned about Safe at Home.”
Safe at Home is an annual, high-impact, half-day of service to homeowners over the age of 60 or to persons of any age with a disability. The event, now in its 10th year, coincides with Fall Prevention Awareness week during the first full week of fall and targets neighborhoods with older, low-income homeowners. On event day, volunteers do simple projects, such as installing grab bars, handrails and lighting, yard work, and home organization.
Partnering with CICOA for community involvement
“I hadn’t done a lot of volunteer work over the years,” he said, “and I didn’t really know what I was getting into.”
The weather that year was unseasonably cold and the forecast was calling for rain.
“Everybody said, ‘Don’t worry about it. The weather in Indiana changes every day.’ You know what? That morning it was cold, and it was raining. I remember thinking I could be doing so many better things that Saturday,” William confessed.
William’s team was tasked with yard work while others installed a handrail on the back porch. Within the first hour, the sun came out and it started warming up.
“There were so many volunteers from United Home Healthcare, and it was new for all of us. It became fun,” he said. “It was like, ‘We’re making a difference! Look how this yard is coming together.’ The best part of it was when the homeowner walked down that back deck with that new handrail, and she had tears in her eyes.”
William asked her what was wrong.
“This is the first time I’ve been in my backyard since my husband passed,” she said.
That’s when William and United Home Healthcare co-owners Byron and Laura Harris knew their work was worth the effort. That’s also why they come back year after year as the presenting sponsor of Safe at Home.
One-day home projects for seniors with a lasting impact
The lessons learned through their partnership with CICOA impacts the company beyond event day.
“So many of our patients are a fall risk,” William explained. “When a grab bar is put up, or handrails are installed that allow patients to get out of their homes safer, it makes such a difference. And being in the home and seeing their gratitude is very meaningful and impactful as well.”
Firsthand experience with caregiving
Safe at Home also aligns with United Home Healthcare’s mission to help seniors and people with disabilities stay in the comfort of their own home. It’s a passion that William shares personally with his sister and company co-owner Laura Harris in caring for their mother, who recently moved to Indiana from Connecticut.
“We were caregivers for my grandmother and dad when we were teenagers. That’s how Laura got this idea of starting her own company. Now we’re back at it again, having my mom live with us,” he explained. “We can sympathize even more with caregivers, because we’re caregivers again.”
“Something as simple as a caregiver not showing up for work affects a family in such a huge way, because now somebody has to take off work and hustle around trying to figure out how they are going to make this happen. To experience caregiving firsthand is something,” he said.
Community outreach extends year-round
In addition to participating in Safe at Home annually, William also initiated United Home Healthcare’s Warmth for Seniors program four years ago.
Each year from October through November, United Home Healthcare asks for donations of blankets and socks, which they put in gift bags and deliver to their clients, to a local nursing home or assisted living facility, and to CICOA.
“Warmth for Seniors is huge because you have seniors and people with disabilities that, in the winter months, are choosing between keeping their heat costs down or getting groceries,” he said. “We’re able to give back so much more to the community just by having an awareness of the needs of others. It’s what it’s really all about.”