With support from the existing nonprofit Wellington Cares, Royal Palm Beach Cares will become its own organization under Your Community Cares.
Led by Wellington Cares Executive Director Kathy Foster and Volunteer Coordinator Diane Gutman, Your Community Cares is a nonprofit organization, according to a presentation led by Foster and Gutman at Hilary’s Restaurant in Royal Palm Beach on Saturday, April 28.
Foster asked the large gathering of residents at the meeting to support the initiation of the new Royal Palm Beach Cares organization. She gave some background on Wellington Cares Inc., founded in 2010.
Foster was interested in the possibility of setting up what is known as a “naturally occurring retirement community” (NORC) to provide a means of empowering residents 65 years of age and older to be in control of their own lives by offering short-term services when a little extra help is needed to maintain independence.
Foster recognized a growing need for such services in her community of Wellington, where she served as that village’s first mayor back in the 1990s.
Having been involved with an elder care facility within Palm Beach County for more than 15 years, she said, “I knew my peers would not want to go into a facility if they didn’t need that type of care. I decided I wanted to set up a NORC in Wellington.”
Foster spent months researching the idea.
“Then, I invited eight of my friends and explained that I wanted to set up a NORC,” she recalled. “I am proud to say that seven of the eight are with us today within the organization serving on the board.”
Due to Wellington Cares’ growth, and the future addition of Royal Palm Beach Cares, Foster has created a parent organization, called Your Community Cares Inc.
In her presentation, Foster noted the necessity of insurance. “The State of Florida has a Good Samaritan Law that protects anyone who is volunteering and helping another. However, we felt the need to purchase insurance protection for both our volunteers and those we serve,” she said. “It took us almost a year to find an insurance company that was willing to cover us, and we learned a lot in the process.”
There are many regulations that Wellington Cares must follow.
“We did legal research, and we learned that in Palm Beach County, in particular, the laws are very restrictive when helping your neighbor,” Foster said. “If you help a neighbor more than twice a month, you need a home caregiver license within the State of Florida provided by the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. This ordinance was in response to elder abuse cases.”
After participating in volunteer training, each Wellington Cares volunteer has to go through a background check and submit their fingerprints to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Foster explained the services provided by Wellington Cares.
“We have more than 100 residents in Wellington signed up for services. Most of those currently needing services ask for assistance weekly, sometimes twice a month. We can pick up their prescriptions, take them grocery shopping, take them to religious services and doctor visits,” she explained. “We send out two volunteers on each request. We have discovered that many of the people we help are very frail. They often need the support of one volunteer to attend to them while the other volunteer goes to park the car. Our intent is to have one person stay with them at all times.”
In 2017, Wellington Cares provided 1,317 volunteer hours with 40 volunteers and 65 active participants.
Gutman serves as the volunteer coordinator. “We often find that people overestimate their physical abilities, so Diane will personally meet with the participant to observe what they are capable of to avoid the chance of putting our volunteers in a compromising situation,” Foster said, adding that the volunteers are provided with a form containing information about the participant before meeting them.
The goal is to spend the next 18 months focused on growing the new Royal Palm Beach Cares organization alongside Wellington Cares. With the amount of passion toward the senior community already achieved in Wellington, one can see that this organization will work hard within the Royal Palm Beach community.
Members of the community are asked to consider becoming a volunteer, sponsor or a participant in the program. If you live in Wellington, call (561) 568-8818.
If you live in Royal Palm Beach, the organization is in the process of starting up in the community and will advertise as soon as services are available. Organizers anticipate that Royal Palm Beach services will be available to residents within the next 18 months.
For more information about Wellington Cares, visit www.wellingtoncaresorg.com.