Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Southeast Seniors connects seniors with students

With the goal of providing services to seniors, Southeast Seniors has worked to find safe ways to connect seniors to their neighborhood.
The intesection of SE 13th Ave. and SE Como Ave. on Thursday, July 23, 2020.

University of Minnesota student Zelie Capolupo sat down for coffee with 92-year old Carol as part of the Connection Club, a program that pairs students with neighborhood seniors.

“I’m looking forward to learning more about her and just really building a relationship with her,” Capolupo said. “I’m excited to learn more about the things that she’s super passionate about and kind of see what her world is like.”

For over 30 years, Southeast Seniors has provided services to support seniors living in Marcy-Holmes, Prospect Park and Como. When faced with COVID-19, the organization was challenged to find creative ways to build community among their clients.

Executive Director Betsy Snyder said that though they were quickly forced to pivot, their services were needed more than ever.

“We offered several ‘how to use Zoom’ classes for people who weren’t familiar with how to use that platform,” Snyder said. “We started doing grocery and supply delivery for clients … we also worked to assist people in finding COVID-19 vaccines by making appointments and providing transportation.”

The group hosted vaccine clinics alongside several other nonprofit organizations in March and April. Through the efforts of the clinic, 330 seniors and primary caregivers were vaccinated.

Kay Jones has been involved with Southeast Seniors since its beginning. She serves on the board of directors, but she is also a recipient of its services.

She said that she recently used the transportation services which made it possible for her to attend her physical therapy appointments.

“There’s a lot of older people in this neighborhood,” Jones said. “There’s also a lot of need and willingness of people to volunteer … It’s community wide and that is what’s so special about it.”

This month, the Connection Club has relaunched for the first time since March 2020. Snyder said the program will look a little different than it has in the past. The pairs are encouraged to meet outdoors and transition to virtual modes as winter approaches.

“These Connection Club pairs have often led to long-lasting friendships,” board member Jim Drake said.

Drake has volunteered with Southeast Seniors for over 10 years. He said the organization’s mission for personalized care is what has kept him so involved with Southeast Seniors.

Drake shared a story of a senior who was told by a social worker that she had to move out of her home. It had been increasingly difficult for her to keep up with her home maintenance and she was no longer able to drive. Someone informed her about Southeast Seniors and she immediately got connected to its services.

Five years later, she is still living in her home in Prospect Park.

Just a few weeks ago, Drake and another volunteer went to her home to rake the leaves and help with maintenance. He said they spent half of the time chatting and catching up with her, one of his favorite parts of the job.

“It just takes a little bit of help,” he said. “You don’t get people to shovel your walk, rake your leaves and help you with rides to the doctor through social services.”

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