PUTNEY -- Windham County Combined Cares Group held its quarterly meeting at the Putney Cares Activities Barn in Putney on Feb. 28. Five towns were represented by 10 people, along with a guest speaker.
Attending were: Deerfield Valley, Jennifer Fitzgerald; Dummerston, Shirlely Perkins, Jean Momaney, Ginny Carter; Guilford, Tina Blust, Joy Hayes, Leah Gessner; Marlboro, Sally Andrews; Putney, Julie Forsythe, Pamela Cubbage.
By popular request, the first order of business was the traditional round table "check in":
-- Putney Cares reported that its board is expanding. They have a new website, www.putneycares.org, which includes a monthly calendar of activities. They are typically providing 8-12 Meals on Wheels. A "One Call Does it All" line has been developed in the town in order to coordinate the activities of the many different organizations competing for volunteers. Drivers are needed for Putney residents who need more than the two rides per month provided by The Current. There was a discussion about how to recruit board members and volunteers.
-- Dummerston Cares has been holding well-attended senior luncheons featuring informational talks. The last topic explored the benefits of milk. Bone building exercise classes are ongoing. Heating assistance has been an active project, providing help for nine people so far. For people who heat with wood, the town is working to create a neighborhood woodpile at the town garage. A social group has been started at the Dummerston Community Church. Dummerston Cares is also in need of volunteer drivers.
-- Deerfield Valley Cares provides fuel assistance for Wilmington area residents through a membership entity which is able to negotiate more affordable prices. There is a town nurse who visits residents. She discussed the challenges of bringing together the services of various organizations to support the senior and vulnerable population.
-- Marlboro Cares holds its popular senior lunches in the Marlboro College lunchroom where they can accommodate 25 residents. They had a lively flu clinic with entertainment provided by local residents. Marlboro has encourages the use of Meal Train, an online connection with volunteers willing to help people who need temporary support with food preparation. They have found FrontPorchForum helpful in the challenge of communicating to a spread out, rural population.
-- Guilford Cares reported that its board has expanded to 11 members. The food pantry has expanded significantly this past year. They are seeking to find better housing for the food pantry and their medical equipment inventory. Community space is minimal in Guilford. A proposed expansion of the Guilford Community Church could provide the much needed space. Guilford Cares has published an Advanced Directive Packet which they hope will encourage people to express their wishes concerning end-of- life care. Guilford Cares staff is available to guide individuals through the process.
The groups discussed the management of medical equipment inventory and loan. All agreed that they can collaborate more by referring to other groups when they can not fill requests. Pamela Cubbage, Putney Cares Coordinator, volunteered to organize a list of equipment to have on hand. She asks that members send her their requests. The groups discussed applying for a grant to purchase new equipment.
Ryan Murphy, Volunteer Coordinator for Brattleboro Area Hospice, spoke about the various programs available from Hospice. Services are free and confidential. Hospice does not provide medical care, but volunteers participate in intensive training so that they know how to bring comfort and dignity to every client and their loved ones. There are a number of outreach workshops taking place to help people start conversations about death and dying. Along with hospice care, there is a pre-hospice program called Pathways Support. Information about programs and contacts is available at www.brattleborohospice.org.
The next Windham County Cares Group meeting will be held on Friday, May 9, at the Putney Activities Barn from 1 to 3 p.m.