Meels on Wheels logo

The Fairbanks Senior Center Meals-On-Wheels logo

Meals on Wheels America just awarded an $85,000 grant to the Fairbanks Senior Center’s Helping Hands Home Modifications program, one of only three programs nationwide to receive the grant.

The 2020 Helping Homebound Heroes program grant, made possible through the Home Depot Foundation, provides safety and accessibility home modifications for local, senior veterans.

“We are honored to be selected for this grant in support of local senior veterans with critical home modification needs,” said grant manager, Karla Zervos. “Senior veterans make up 22% of the Borough population, but they are 33% of our service requests. Many of these veterans served our country and now have service-related and/or age-related disabilities that make it difficult for them to age safely at home.

“And most of them are not enrolled in other supportive Senior Center programs. Our home modifications program has become a portal for connecting older veterans to other Senior Center services like Meals on Wheels, drive-up/congregate meals, transportation, wellness calls, grocery store runners, Senior Companions, and the Aging and Disability Resource Center North.”

Until now, the small volunteer program couldn’t always fill requests from senior veterans. To make this work now, Fairbanks Senior Center is looking for local groups and individuals to volunteer. The senior center is also hiring handymen and contractors for small- to mid-size jobs.

Due to the coronavirus, work is currently limited to work outside only. These projects might include replacing stairs, steps, handrails, ramps, door hardware and lighting. Call 907-457-4263 or email helpinghands@acsalaska.net.

This program began last year with volunteers helping install grab bars, handrails, height-adjustable shower heads and changing light bulbs. In just one year, five volunteers completed 37 projects in 15 homes for 24 seniors. Most of the seniors were able to reimburse the program for costs of materials for the projects. With volunteer labor, the program has been self-sustaining.

The next goal, according to a press release from the Fairbanks Senior Center, is to grow so that it can support itself through grants and reimbursements. The hope is to continue offering this community service to senior citizen veterans throughout the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

In order to benefit from this program, recipients must be at least 60 years old, live in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and be a veteran, honorably discharged from service.

In-home safety and the ability for older adults to age in place is a growing and costly concern, according to the Fairbanks Senior Center.

“Falls result in $50 billion in healthcare spending each year,” the center said in a press release. “Furthermore, we know individuals want to stay in their own home.”

Also, veterans form a unique population who tend to have disabilities earlier in life. 

Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at kcapps@newsminer.com. Follow her on Twitter @FDNMKris

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Community editor and columnist Kris Capps is a longtime resident of Fairbanks and Denali Park. Contact her at kcapps@newsminer.com, in the office at 459-7546 or by cell at 322-6334. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.