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Faith-based group aids seniors

Sometimes all it takes is a little faith and a few motivated volunteers to help senior citizens remain independent.

That sentiment is fueling the Irwin-based Brush Creek Area Faith in Action, which offers an array of services to seniors in Irwin, North Irwin, North Huntingdon, Manor, Westmoreland City and Herminie.

The group started in October with funding from United Way and is now the fourth Faith in Action in Westmoreland County. It is one of 670 programs nationwide.

"We provide volunteer companionship and assistance to help seniors remain independent and healthy," program director Terry Waylan said.

The program aims to help seniors by offering volunteers to serve as escorts to medical appointments and shopping trips, basic yard and handyman work, and social visits.

Pennsylvania has the second-highest aging population in the nation, with ages 65 and older making up 15 percent of the population. Senior citizens who are 65 and older account for about 18 percent of Westmoreland County's population.

The United Way chose the Brush Creek area after an assessment of needs survey in 2003.

"The United Way worked with the area's Agency on Aging to identify sites with higher populations of older adults that may need services," project manager Bobbi Watt Geer said. "We chose areas where those needs aren't being met."

Watt Geer said the site was part of a strategic plan.

"We wanted to place them all over the county so as they grow, they will eventually bump into each other and cover the entire county," she said.

Faith in Action is a free service that has no income requirements. The only requirement is that seniors are 60 or older.

The group has six active volunteers and six seniors receiving services. Two more volunteers are in training.

"We're still considered brand new and starting up is a slow process," Waylan said.

All program volunteers have gone through a three-hour training session and are matched with a senior.

The program asks volunteers to give a minimum of two hours per week.

During the organization's building stages, Waylan said Faith in Action is working to partner with local churches and nonprofit agencies. She is hoping more from the faith community will pledge their time.

Waylan said senior citizens are an often forgotten demographic.

"People usually volunteer all of their time with food banks or kids, but sometimes forget about seniors," Waylan said. "It takes a special person willing to work with the elderly.

"But once you start working with them, it's so darling -- they're your uncles, aunts, grandparents and parents -- who wouldn't want to hang out with those people?"

Additional Information:

Expressing an interest

Faith in Action is looking for volunteers and care recipients. If interested, contact Terry Waylan at 724-863-5950 for more information.

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