Serving elderly and low-income elderly residents. That is the mission of Project Mend-a-House, a non-profit organization based in Manassas.
According to Project Mend-A-House Executive Director Jennifer Schock-Bolles, the organization all started when a volunteer noticed an elderly woman in need.
“We were founded in 1984 by Lily Blackwell who was a Meals on Wheels volunteer. And she noted that one client in particular – her home was just very dilapidated and run down, to the point where it just was unsafe to live in. And Lily’s husband worked at IBM…so IBM was our first corporate sponsor, and gave $2,000…we had our very first Community Service Day in 1984,” said Schock-Bolles.
Some of these home repairs that individuals in the community need may seem small, but can be a huge financial hurdle for many elderly residents.
“It might be an $80 fix for a leaky faucet, but if you don’t have $80, it might as well be $800. And so often when they get to us, that faucet’s been leaking for years,” said Schock-Bolles.
While the organization does offer free volunteer home repair and maintenance services, Schock-Bolles said that the organization has evolved and grown to expand their offerings.
“I think that one of the biggest misconceptions is that people think that Project Mend-a-House’s mission is free home repair, but it’s not. Our mission is really safety and independence. It’s helping people remain in their homes as long as they want. And we’ve traditionally and historically done this by providing free home repairs to low-income county residents, and residents in Manassas and Manassas Park,” said Schock-Bolles.
One thing that Project Mend-a-House has been focusing on with their services is the addition of important safety features in the homes of their clients.
“Over the years what we’ve noticed is that because of our typical clientele, you know, it doesn’t necessarily matter how safe we make their home, they still not be able to stay in it because of their health issues or mobility issues. So we started ramps – we do a lot of ramps, a lot of grab bars. We have a durable medical equipment loan closet,” said Schock-Bolles.
A service the organization has started to offer is FreedomAlert, a personal emergency dialer program, similar to a Life Alert System. The system can be programmed with four contacts, and can call 911 in case of an emergency.
According to Schock-Bolles, Project Mend-a-House will set up one of these systems for elderly residents for a one-time fee, or they will install them free for particular clients.
Another area where the organization has expanded their offerings is in the arena of health and wellness programs.
“Through funding from the Potomac Health Foundation…we started doing a fall risk screening program, where…we would screen people for mobility issues, vision issues, hearing…and now we’re doing a fall intervention. So we’re going back to all of those people that were screened, who are known fall risks, and it’s really a program that’s designed to just to more actively help prevent falls,” said Schock-Bolles.
The program, called Poised, is done through a partnership with George Mason University, according to Schock-Bolles.
One other program that Project Mend-a-House has been offering to their clients is a chronic disease self-management program, which was developed by Stanford University, and has existed for around 30 years, according to Schock-Bolles.
“Because so many of our clients have significant health issues, and have multiple health issues, again it’s about how can we help them remain independent and in their homes. And chronic disease really affects every aspect of your life,” said Schock-Bolles.
Schock-Bolles said that the program helps to reduce doctor’s visits and health care costs for the elderly, and improves quality of life for these individuals.
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