Joan Goddard: Virtual community helps seniors |

Joan Goddard: Virtual community helps seniors


If you have not heard of Sierra Foothills Village, let me introduce you to another gem in our community (and there are many).

Sierra Foothills is a virtual community, a part of the national Village-to-Village Network that began in Beacon Hill, Mass., established to assist adults to stay in their own homes as they age. Members enjoy the connections, support, referrals and services they need to remain independent and a vital contribution to the larger communities.

I could tell you about how five local people attended the national conference in 2015 and returned home motivated to create such an organization in Nevada County.

I could go into great detail about the small group of people who met every week for several years to knock out the policies, procedures and legalities of this endeavor (“88 Steps to Create a Village,” from the national organization).

I could regale you with stories about the hunt for an executive director or the training of volunteers, or the building of a board of directors.

I could give kudos to all of the generous donors who believed in this vision and contributed funds … and still do!

Instead, I want to tell you personal stories of those who are being served. One year ago, Sierra Foothills Village did a soft launch with a small number of members to test the effectiveness of the website and the procedures created to operate this program.

There were several gatherings in person with members, volunteers and board and then the pandemic hit. Sierra Foothills, like every other organization and business in this community, had to adapt, and they did so beautifully.

A member, a technical writer for Lockheed, lived alone on property and wanted the village as a safety net. First she became a volunteer, and then during the first PG&E power shutoff for fire danger, she was unable to open her garage door to go to her volunteer stint. The village sent Matt, another volunteer, who not only opened her door for her but helped her move a heavy plant.

She was so thrilled she joined the village as a member, the first dual volunteer-member. She especially enjoys driving and other errands, in which she has time to engage socially with other members.

When a member couple had a flood in their Lake Wildwood home, they were forced to live in a small Grass Valley hotel room without kitchen facilities for a few months. The village helped them find good food and delivery services and provided rides for medical, hair and errands. They reported that the social part of the visits were often as important as the “chore” accomplished.

Another member lives alone in a large country property and requested a daily call just to be sure that he was still alive! Getting the call turned into a daily visit. When he needed help getting a grab rail installed in the shower, the village tried a warm hand-off to FREED. He was impatient to get the work done, so the village recommended some providers for him, and the job was completed.

Countless people took advantage of the emergency preparedness training offered by the village and were impressed with the number of events and activities posted on the village website: As a result of these trainings, several people have become regular website visitors and a few have signed up to volunteer.

Sierra Foothills Village owes its success to many people too numerous to mention. However, there are several individuals who must be noted here.

Jeanne Scarmon has worked diligently and faithfully from the very beginning to bring this vision to fruition. She became the president of the board of directors at the first meeting in December 2015 and has shepherded this endeavor every single step of the way. The village may never have come into being without her.

Valarie Bush became the executive director one year ago, and together with her capable administrative assistant, Wendy Banestoki, has upleveled everything from the website to community outreach. Valarie brings great energy and new ideas to the village. Jeanne, Valarie and Wendy have even delivered personal services to members, such is their commitment and devotion to Sierra Foothills Village.

A year or so ago, a local major financial planner remarked that she was very concerned that a number of her wealthy clients who pay taxes, serve on boards, support non-profits and make valuable contributions to the community were moving away because of the lack of services for them as they got older. Sierra Foothills Village may be their answer.

Joan Goddard lives in Grass Valley.

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