Villages Clark County gives them someone to call. Volunteers can’t provide medical care or undertake big home projects, but they can assist older and disabled adults with chores and errands.
“It’s the kind of assistance you would expect from a friend or a neighbor,” Chapman said. “We can trim a bush or rake some leaves — but not provide weekly lawn care.”
Frankie Shetterly describes the help she receives from Villages Clark County as “lifesaving.” She has lived alone since her husband, Bob, died in 2012 at age 82. Her 3,000-square-foot Hazel Dell house is a lot for her to maintain.
Although she hires out housecleaning and yard maintenance, “Villages really fills in the blanks,” she said. “It’s the kind of things my husband did — smaller things — that they’ve done for me.”
She has two children living in the Portland area, and they helped her after the initial shock of her husband’s death.
“I was just totally thrown,” she said. “In that time when I wasn’t doing well, they were over here a lot. They had jobs, which made it difficult. Now they know that I have trustworthy help.”
For example, she used to take a taxi to medical appointments, but it was tricky to secure a ride home. Now she gets rides from Villages Clark County.
“The Villages people are friends. It’s a totally different effect. They’re right there. I know them. They make sure everything goes OK,” she said.
On a recent morning, volunteer Bruce Eavey drove her for a doctor appointment.
“You can’t help but build a relationship that’s pretty strong,” said Eavey, a retiree who underwent special training and screening to help as a Villages driver. He also lends his handyman skills.
Eavey said when he tells people he volunteers for Villages Clark County, the response is, “Villages? Where is it? How do I get there?”
He explains that it’s not a place but a network of people. Volunteers offer a hand. Members pay $50 a month to access that help, while associate members pay $25 a month. The money offsets the organization’s operating expenses; volunteers receive no compensation.
“Associate members join to sustain the organization so that when we really need it, it is still there,” said Chapman, who is both an associate member and a volunteer. “Associate members don’t get volunteer assistance except three or five times a year.”
Chapman, who is retired, became intrigued by the Village Movement after moving to Vancouver from Florida in 2015. He was part of the steering committee that spent three years getting the local group up and running. It now has 40 members and 40 volunteers.
Volunteers undergo vetting and training. They might help a few hours a week with yard and garden care, minor home repairs, running errands or figuring out computers or other home electronics — wherever their abilities and interests lie.
Volunteers visit the homes of prospective members to make sure the required assistance is within the scope of what Villages Clark County can offer.
Chapman said the eventual goal is to spawn more groups focusing on smaller sections of Clark County, like Ridgefield and Camas/Washougal.
“We like to say we’re ‘neighbors helping neighbors stay neighbors,’ ” he said.
So far, it’s worked for Shetterly.
“At the starting of COVID, I thought I should go into a retirement home. I’m getting to this age and that’s what everyone does,” Shetterly, 90, said. “I’ve been here in my home almost three years that I might not have been. It’s been thanks to Villages.”