St. John Community Foundation officials and St. John seniors celebrate Grandparent’s Day at St. Ursula’s Multipurpose Center. Photo by Mares Crane
The St. Ursula’s Multipurpose Senior Center was transformed into an elegant venue and filled to capacity to honor the island’s elders on National Grandparent’s Day on Sunday, September 9.
The St. John Community Foundation marked the 20th Anniversary of the group’s coordination of the St. John Dial-A-Ride services by hosting a Tea Party to show appreciation for all grandparents and to thank those who make the vital transportation services for the elderly, disabled, and disadvantaged individuals on St. John possible.
“Based on the success of this year’s event, we’ll have to find a bigger venue for the September 8th, 2013 event” said Harry Daniel, Assistant Director of Veteran’s Affairs and a SJCF founding Board member. “People have already expressed an interest in performing live music, skits, dance performances, and having kid’s get involved in the tributes.”
Grandparent’s Day was instigated in 1972 by President Jimmy Carter to encourage grandchildren to tap the wisdom and heritage their grandparents could provide.
Estate Adrian Senior Center Manager Abby Hendricks was grateful to be able to thank Dean Thomas, the dedicated St. John Dial-A-Ride program manager. Thomas is not only a driver and supportive service provider, but also a friend who never turns down a request, Hendricks explained.
“Dean is on call 24 hours a day, and his family generously shares his devotion to the delivery of services to his clients,” she said.
Daniel was honored to be able to thank the Red Cross, Department of Human Services and United Way for instigating the Health Fair in Cruz Bay Park more than 20 years ago which marked the beginning of St. John Dial-A-Ride.
“We were thankful for the services that were being offered to our residents as they were trying to recover from Hurricane Hugo,” said Daniel. “VI Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities had come over for the Health Fair to let our elderly and disabled residents know Dial-A-Ride transportation services were available to them if they needed rides over in St. Thomas.”
“The discussion turned to the need for the same services here on St. John, and they provided valuable guidance and support,” said Daniel.
Reverend Worrell of the St. John Baptist Church took the lead and coordinated the St. John Dial-A-Ride services until 1992 when they could no longer afford the insurance or maintenance of the vehicle, and the demand for service was becoming more than the group could handle.
That is when SJCF stepped in to ensure continued services to the elderly and disabled residents on St. John, according to Worrell.
The V.I. government provides critical funding to the SJCF for the Dial-A-Ride Services on St. John from the Miscellaneous Budget which is distributed via the Department of Human Services.
Those funds were cut last year, but reinstated by an amendment when the program was going to have to cease vital services to the elderly, disabled and disadvantaged residents of St. John.
“The Senators heard our plea and acted swiftly,” said Rosie Koonce, who has used St. John-Dial-A-Ride to get out of her home for shopping and medical appointments for the past nine years. “If it wasn’t for Dean, I’d be trapped at home since I don’t have family on island who can help me.”
“Providing transportation services to our seniors through the Dial-A-Ride program is a top priority that must be funded despite tough financial times,” said Senator at large Craig Barshinger. “St. John seniors use and appreciate the service, and they deserve it.”
St. John Dial-A-Ride provides an average of 250 rides per month. In addition to transportation for medical, work, educational, personal, civic, recreational and social trips, St. John Dial-A-Ride provides assistance and supportive services, such as shopping, medical appointment coordination, assistance with bill interpretation and payment, scheduling and referral services for local and visiting seniors, disabled veterans and disadvantaged individuals.
The service also coordinates and executes intergenerational community service projects for the seniors, disabled and disadvantaged, and in the past year, also included efforts to bridge the huge gap in services to the homeless on St. John.
“We continue to count on the support of United Way and the services of the American Red Cross to make sure our residents are taken care of in times of disaster, as well as on a daily basis,” said SJCF executive director Celia Kalousek. “These two organizations have a long well respected history of dedicated service.”
“American Red Cross is pleased to be a part of the St. John Community Foundation Dial-A-Ride’s legacy,” said Marla Matthew, Director of Disaster Services. “Most importantly, we are proud of the partnership that we have with this organization through Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters. As we move forward, the goals and objectives must be realized through continued support from the community and other non-profit organizations.”
SJCF has successfully been carrying out its mission to support programs that positively engage people, build resources and strengthen the St. John community since 1989.
“We continuously look for ways to fill service gaps and cultivate community assets including people, organizations, programs, and resources to effectively respond to changing needs of the community now and for future generations,” said Rob Crane current Board President.
In addition to St. John Dial-A-Ride, other programs operating under the umbrella of SJCF include Using Sport for Social, St. John Film Society, St. John Recycling, JOY Volunteer Network, Friends Helping Friends Revolving Fund, The Gifft Hill Community Garden Park, as well as other collaborative community projects and events.
Find out how to support SJCF’s efforts by visiting the website www.sjcf.org, email email@example.com or call The Marketplace office at 693-9410.