Angels in our Midst
Napa nonprofit Molly’s Angels was founded in 1999 by local restaurant owner Molly Banz, who responded to news of a local tragedy in a very personal way. Executive Director Fran Rosenberg says, “There was a big fire that year, and a woman’s daughter and her two grandchildren died. [Banz] got out a pickle jar and asked everyone to put in a dollar to raise money to help bury the family. The San Francisco Chronicle got wind of the story and eventually she raised more than $30,000, which was enough to bury the family and buy a mobile home for the grandmother to live in.”
Banz died in 2013, but her work lives on. “We wanted to concentrate on what was needed in Napa County, so we started our transportation program,” says Rosenberg. “We now have 56 volunteers who take seniors to their medical appointments in and around Napa, Vacaville, Santa Rosa and beyond. We take them there, we sit and wait—sometimes for as long as 12 hours—and then we take them home. And if they need to go to the pharmacy or grocery shopping, we take them there, too.”
Last year, says Rosenberg, volunteers drove almost 41,000 miles, volunteered almost 3,800 hours and made nearly 3,900 one-way rides. The organization also has a weekly telephone reassurance program, where volunteers call seniors who may be isolated or lonely for a friendly chat. Seniors often form bonds with these volunteers, and these check-ins help seniors stay independent and in their own homes longer.
Molly’s Angels also has a Share the Care program, a peer-to-peer program that connects older adults needing assistance with those who can provide it, whether it be companionship, gardening and handyman work, paperwork or whatever else. Molly’s Angels also works with the Access Adventures program, which provides outdoor recreation, open space access, education and therapy through a working partnership with horses.
Molly’s Angels’ main program is still its transportation program. “We often serve low-income seniors who can’t afford a taxi or a bus ride,” says Rosenberg. “We want those seniors to know we’re here for them.”
In August, California’s assembly approved Senate Bill 1150, dubbed the Homeowner Survivor Bill of Rights (SBOR), which is intended to help stop “widow foreclosures.” Authored by Senators Mark Leno and Cathleen Galgiani, SB1150 closes a loophole and provides critical protections for widowed spouses and other survivors including domestic partners, heirs, siblings, joint tenants and other people who co-own their homes but who aren’t listed on the mortgage. The proposed law would be the first in the nation to protect survivor homeowners and was approved by the Assembly with 47 votes for it. The next step is a concurrence vote by the Senate, and then the bill would head to Governor Brown.
Caring for an aging loved one, whether it be a parent, grandparent, spouse, sibling or friend, can be stressful and filled with unexpected and difficult situations. Beyond the usual brochures and casual guidance, it can be helpful to have a more comprehensive guide for what to do when things get tricky. Tips for Helping Your Aging Parents (Without Losing Your Mind) by Kira Reginato offers easily digestible tips for dealing with common situations, such as how to get started helping your parent, legally honoring your parents health wishes and checking home safety. Written in a clean, clear and organized style the book is helpful and focused without being overwhelming.
Reginato keeps her tone balanced and positive but realistic, covering topics such as recognizing signs of caregiver fatigue and what to do about it. The information is given simply and compassionately but with an expert’s knowledge. As she says in her opening chapter “Help your parent in a gentle way, and be patient with yourself and your siblings. This can be a long journey. No one gets it all right, so be easy on yourself.” Most of all, “Let yourself be helped. You don’t have to go it alone.”
Wise words to we all can learn from.
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