Special to the Village News
Patty Sargent, executive director of the Foundation for Senior Care, says the lifeblood support the organization receives from the Fallbrook Regional Health District is essential. Without the four grants for $140,000 from the health district awarded earlier this month at the annual presentation of community grants, the senior care program would be dead.
"It's truly needed," she said in an interview last week. "We're seeing a real decline in financial support. Even the health district has reduced our amount from a couple years ago."
The funds from the FRHD represent the majority of the senior organization's budget, and what really hurts is lack of support from other organizations and foundations that Sargent submitted proposals.
"We rely on grants and have professional grant writers helping us," Sargent said. "In the recent cycle of grant applications, we submitted 34 grants totaling $700,000, but only received two for $8,000 (in addition to the health district grants)."
She said she reviews and fine-tunes all grant submissions, but said current economy is at fault. Organizations aren't giving as much.
"It's just a difficult time," Sargent said. "I've talked to other nonprofits and giving is certainly down. Funding is drying up and it puts our program at risk. We need donations now more than ever."
She also said there is a new factor in the denials: "An over-emphasis on diversity and equality."
Grantmakers don't realize the special characteristics of rural Fallbrook, she said. Fallbrook is diverse with a Hispanic population of 45-50%. However, she said the Hispanic senior population is closer to 10%, with 85% Caucasian and the rest "other."
"That's what the people making these financial decisions are looking at," she said. "The foundation is serving the underserved, but the Fallbrook numbers are not as diverse."
Sargent added that there are just too many organizations seeking grants compared to the funds available.
Meanwhile, the foundation continues to serve local seniors in a variety of ways.
Its Adult Day Care program, offered Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., is important because it gives caregivers a break and seniors an opportunity to socialize with others their age. The cost is $95 a day and the number of participants vary from 5 to 12.
"It relieves the stress of caregivers by giving them a break," Sargent said. "Some have said it gives them an opportunity to take care of themselves, while the person they care for is given an opportunity to socialize and make friends."
Volunteers at the center help by playing games, assisting in arts and crafts, or just sitting and talking with seniors. There are usually 4-5 volunteers at the center serving 4-5 days a week.
The Transportation Program provided 5,000 local rides last year, including wheelchair trips in the center's vans. The program is donation based at $10 per trip. There is an opportunity for low cost or free service.
Volunteers are essential in the transportation, with 8-10 volunteers taking seniors shopping or to medical appointments in town or to medical facilities in Oceanside, San Marcos, Escondido, Murrieta or even the VA hospital in La Jolla. The volunteers normally take the senior to their appointment in their car and wait for the return trip.
"Some of our volunteers have been doing this for years and find it a very rewarding experience," Sargent said.
Another valuable program is the Senior Care Advocates.
"They assist in anything the senior may need help with," Sargent said. "It may be working with the VA or taxes or other financial issues, and even food," she said. "Our three case workers have about 2,000 sources or referrals in our data base."
The department has helped 900 to 1,000 seniors in the past year, including 300 who were helped with housing.
She noted that in the past year there has been an increase in people with housing needs, mostly seniors who can't afford their rent. The foundation can sometimes help with vouchers and in other ways.
"We really need to keep our seniors housed," Sargent said.
In addition to the three advocate staff members – coordinator Elisha Wright, Julie-Ann Andrews and Alex Reif – there are about five volunteers who make senior wellness phone calls. There's also a group of volunteer handymen who can assist in putting in needed railing, ramps and other projects. Another volunteer donates funds for the supplies needed for the projects.
Advocates are valuable with mental health connections and referrals.
Sargent said the center's Door Through Door program is essential in making sure homes are fall-safe and details are in order for patients completing a hospital stay – so they won't unnecessarily have an early return visit for care.
The foundation serves 200 to 300 new clients a year, Sargent said. "And so many people still don't know what we do."
Sargent said anyone interested in being a volunteer or offering financial support can contact her at 760-723-7570. She said volunteers are also needed for some of their special events and fundraising projects. The center is located at 135 S. Mission in Fallbrook.