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Shorewood Connects puts 'neighbor' back in neighborhood

Second annual yard clean-up attracts a big crowd

Nov. 11, 2009

Shorewood — More than 100 volunteers gathered on Saturday morning to participate in the second annual Shorewood Connects Yard Clean-Up Day, where residents prepared the homes of 33 elderly or disabled adults for the winter all around the village.

Volunteers raked leaves, put away garden hoses and trimmed hedges in the sunny 66-degree weather.

The group met at the North Shore Presbyterian Church and included village trustees, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, local businesses, the Shorewood High School boys soccer team, friends, families and more. After a donated breakfast, participants worked from 9 a.m. until noon at homes around Shorewood and the River Park Apartments, home to more than 400 low-income, elderly or disabled adults.

With the limited number of homes to attend to, and after extending clean-up projects to Lake Bluff School, organizers said there was an abundance of helpers.

"It's giving back to the community and everybody's really, really happy to do it," said Sarah Eibl, a recreation supervisor with the Shorewood Recreation Department. "We had so many volunteers that we were almost asking people not to volunteer because we didn't have that many homes."

Reluctant to ask for help

Pat Rauch, a resident on the Shorewood Connects committee, thanked volunteers as they enjoyed breakfast before heading to their assigned homes. She also included an explanation for why so many willing volunteers were turned down because of the lack of neighbors seeking help.

"I do want you to know that the older adults that you are helping today are independent people," said Rauch. "Many of them needed encouragement and even convincing that they really needed this help today."

According to Shorewood's Elder Services Advisory Board, a partner of Shorewood Connects, about 3,000 adults in Shorewood are 55 or older, half are renters, and nearly 20 percent do not speak English well.

With raking away the piles of fall leaves being the main concern, groups of high school students, families and community groups were seen with rakes all around the village volunteering for appreciative neighbors.

Shorewood Connects is an expansive group that organizes more than the annual yard clean-up for those in need. With help from the Elder Services Advisory Board and other local groups, they have gotten two "senior parking" spaces at Shorewood's Pick 'n Save, installed countdown crosswalk signals at a busy intersection, and mailed polling place information to handicapped residents.

"In a nutshell, it is a group of people working to enhance the ability of older residents to remain in their neighborhoods and contribute to the life of the village," said Sue Kelley, the project facilitator for Shorewood Connects. "Restoring neighborliness to neighborhoods is at the core of this project."

A family of helpers

Shorewood resident Mary-Jean Fowler and her two children, ages 5 and 11, headed to Bernice Putchinski's home. Putchinski is a volunteer for the Interfaith program and was recommended for the yard clean-up by other members.

"She was delightful and happy to receive help," said Fowler, her two children emerging from Putchinski's home with orange-frosted cookies. "She was just very friendly. … It was really lovely to talk to Bernice and hear her story, and then to be out here. It's a beautiful day."

Fowler heard about the annual Yard Clean-Up Day in Lake Bluff's school bulletin. Although it was her family's first year volunteering for the clean-up, she said it won't be her last, saying they often volunteer within the school system, and it was nice to work in the village community.

Putchinski, also an avid volunteer, said it was nice that someone came and raked her lawn. She also said she would use the Yard Clean-Up Day in the years to come.

FYI

Shorewood Connects is looking for residents who would be willing to shovel snow for elderly or disabled neighbors as a paid or volunteer opportunity (most older people are willing to pay as a contribution for your efforts). If you are interested, contact Elizabeth Price at the Senior Resource Center, (414) 847-2727.

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