Neighborhood event supports seniors

A community event raised funds for a nonprofit that helps senior citizens.

Meara Cummings

When senior citizens in the Southeast Como, Marcy-Holmes and Prospect Park neighborhoods need assistance living at home, they turn to Southeast Seniors.

At the third annual Celebrate Southeast event Saturday, residents raised funds for Southeast Seniors, a nonprofit that provides in-home nursing services and volunteers to offer company and ride services to help seniors live independently.

The event also celebrated the southeast Minneapolis neighborhoods, honored an outstanding neighbor and featured a silent auction and a “Taste of Southeast” buffet with food donated from area restaurants.

Southeast Seniors Board Chair Susan Anderson said the goal of the event was to raise funds for seniors who can’t afford home care out-of-pocket or through insurance. The event raised nearly $8,000 for the program both last year and the year before, Anderson said, and she had hoped to raise even more this year.

“Medicare pays for the first three weeks of home care after hospitalization, but after that they’re on their own and a lot of people have to go to a nursing home because they can’t afford to pay for home care,” she said.

Southeast Seniors contracts with Fairview Home Care and Hospice and has an outreach nurse on staff. Anderson said care ranges from comprehensive daily visits to more minimal services like setting up medications and taking blood pressure.

“Anybody who’s had to put a favorite aunt or a grandma or even a mother in a nursing home and it wasn’t the best solution for them feels pretty strongly about a program like this,” she said. “So that often draws in students or people who are renters.”

Southeast Seniors Executive Director Marji Miller said the number of student volunteers has decreased lately, but in the past, student involvement has included one-on-one interactions with area seniors — things like weekly visits or rides to doctor’s appointments.

Many students have told Miller they have gained knowledge they never expected while working with a senior, she said.

“We had a student who was paired with a senior woman who said, ‘The best thing about this is that she’s giving me advice on dating!’”

Because Southeast Seniors is a small organization, Miller said, it is open to many kinds of volunteer work and would like to see more students get involved in the future.

“This is a great way to learn about the community, to volunteer and give back to where you are,” she said.

Honoring a true Como-ite

In addition to fundraising for Southeast Seniors, the event honored a neighbor for involvement in the area.

Katie Fournier lives in the Southeast Como neighborhood and has been involved in a myriad of organizations, including the Southeast Como Improvement Association, the League of Women Voters and the University District Alliance. She was formerly the Como precinct chair.

One after another, Fournier’s colleagues and friends took the stage to say thanks and honor her accomplishments.

Though Fournier has a variety of interests, Minneapolis Planning Commission President Ted Tucker said, she has always kept the southeast Minneapolis area in mind.

“She is what it means to be a citizen,” he said to the crowd.

SECIA board member Bill Dane said Fournier not only “talks the talk” but also “walks the walk” as chair of the organization’s livability committee, working to improve housing conditions and increase the number of homeowners in the Como neighborhood.

Anderson, who has worked with Fournier on the League of Women Voters, read off a list of Fournier’s other work over the years, including work with former Minneapolis Mayor Donald Fraser and with the American Swedish Institute.

Fournier’s personal home choices, like having an urban garden and using solar panels, Anderson said, have inspired her to become more conscious of the environment around her.

When all the “thank-yous” were over, Fournier took the stage to accept her recognition.

“My hope for the community,” she said, “is that our neighborhoods will cooperate for the benefit of all to build a more cohesive southeast community.”