In tough times, communities find strength in people — and people find strength in their communities. This last past year, we’ve seen this time and again here in El Paso as friends, neighbors, and businesses have found new ways to support each other. We saw how the COVID-19 pandemic imposed tremendous hardships on our community, particularly for older adults. Many suffered extreme social isolation from being separated from family, friends and community resources throughout the pandemic. We became acutely aware of the disparities that exist and the need to quickly find ways to help serve our most vulnerable. Many organizations in town did their absolute best in maintaining their support and found new and different methods in utilizing their resources. This once again helped showcase the strength of our community. Building relationships and establishing new ones has become a norm in our community, especially when it comes to serving older adults.
The Rio Grande Area Agency on Aging is grateful for the many relationships that have been built over the years in service to the older adults of our community. A strength to the existing resources of the agency, the Senior Fund has been a continuous support for more than 25 years. The Senior Fund is a partnership between the Rio Grande Area Agency on Aging, the United Way of El Paso County and the El Paso Times. Each of these partners have their distinct role in helping to create this support net for older adults residing in El Paso County.
During the holiday season, the El Paso Times features profiles of older adults in need. This is done to help raise awareness of the needs of older adults and to solicit donations to the Senior Fund. The United Way of El Paso County serves as the fiscal agent where they receive and manage financial contributions made to the Fund. They also maintain a Senior Fund Committee that reviews and approves expenses from the Fund. This collaboration has helped to strengthen this partnership and ensure transparency in how the funds are being utilized.
The Area Agency on Aging coordinates the services for clients requesting assistance. Persons 60 and older who are in need of assistance apply directly to the Area Agency on Aging to determine eligibility. Agency staff screen client’s requests in order to ensure there are no other benefits or local resources available that could support their request. The Area Agency on Aging works directly with the United Way and Senior Fund Committee in order to access the Senior Fund for items to be purchased through the Fund.
From a financial standpoint, the Senior Fund allows the Area Agency on Aging to expand its resources to serve additional older adults in our community. Federal funding allocated to the Area Agency on Aging is never enough to meet the requests for assistance it receives. Examples of the kinds of items purchased through the Fund are: hearing aids, dentures, residential repairs for safety or that help make a home more accessible, medical equipment and supplies, such as items for incontinence, dietary supplement drinks, wheelchairs and walkers. These services help the older adult maintain their independence and often times, remain in the community.
Over this last year, the Senior Fund Committee approved 10 client requests to include two hearing aids, five bathroom modifications and three dental procedures. The total amount for the requests mentioned totaled $37,833.
, Donations made to the Fund can and do make a difference in the lives of older adults. Senior Fund donations can be made year round, but we come to you again this holiday season in hopes that as a community, you will continue to assist in supporting the needs of older adults. You may visit the United Way of El Paso County’s website to make a secure donation, under the Ways To Give tab, Senior Fund section. You may also mail donations directly to the United Way, by making checks payable to: United Way of El Paso County – Senior Fund, mailed to 100 N. Stanton St. Suite 500, El Paso TX, 79901.
As the Director for the Area Agency on Aging, I continue to believe in the strength of our community. The Senior Fund is one such example. It has maintained its strength from the generosity of our community and the belief in taking care of our own. While there is never enough funding to support all of the needs of our older adults, the Senior Fund continues to be a safety net that helps an older adult with an expense that they most times didn’t plan for. I humbly ask that you consider serving our older adults by making a donation to the Senior Fund. Your donation will serve as a testament to the strength of our community.
Yvette Lugo is director for the Rio Grande Area Agency on Aging.
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: The Senior Fund: El Paso continues to be a community of strength