Volunteers seek to recreate ‘village’ of old


It may be clich but in Linus Liddles mind its true: It really does take a village in this case a network of dedicated volunteers to keep elderly residents in their homes. 
Liddle, executive director of At Home Alexandria, has spent two and a half years building that village in the citys east side. Hes been vetting volunteers and vendors and signing up Alexandrias elderly population to a group tasked with making their golden years a little easier. The organization will begin offering services, from rides to the doctors to programming the television remote, on April 15. 
The concept for Liddles village concept has its roots in Bostons Beacon Hill neighborhood. The idea is to re-imagine the village of old, a place where a close-knit group of friends and family would care for each other, he said. 
Modern families are often fragmented, Liddle said, with different generations living in different regions of the country. Its not as easy or convenient for elderly people to ask their children or grandchildren for help. 
Its not like the old village where the population was very stable, Liddle said. [Particpants] would create a volunteer organization that would serve as a village and help its members stay in their homes for as long as possible People dont particularly want to move to an assisted living facility or leave the place theyve lived in and loved for many years.
Though designed to help homebound seniors stay in their homes, its not limited to the infirm, according to Liddle. Himself a member, Liddle plans to take advantage of the services when he leaves town. Someone has to feed the cats, he said. 
At $800 a year per couple or $550 per single person, members can expect transportation for errands and help around the home. If its a problem the volunteers cant personally solve like fixing a leaky roof the organization will have a list of approved contractors and businesses available. 
For former state delegate Marian Van Landingham, its an organization that could have come in handy while she fought cancer. Its the memory of depending on neighbors, friends and family then that has her enrolling in the program now.
I probably dont need its services right at the moment, but there was a time six years ago when I was battling cancer that I would have used it, Van Landingham said. Im in good health now, Im able to take care of everything. Nobody ever knows when they might need help.
It was a struggle just to get through the day, she recalled.
I wasnt able to go out and by groceries, wasnt able to run errands or walk my dogs and it was a trial to get myself together to go to the doctors offices, although the senior services taxis helped with that, she said. 
More than just providing a ride to the grocery store or fixing a light bulb, the organization fosters relationships between members and volunteers, said Carol Downs, a member of AHAs board of directors. For homebound seniors struggling to stay in touch with the rest of the world, AHA provides a connection, she said. 
A lot of these seniors are more homebound and they may not have that ability to interact a lot with other people and I think what it does for the volunteer, it establishes a relationship thats just not taking somebody to their doctors appointment, Downs said. Ive worked with seniors for a number of years and I think one of the most important things is to keep that social exchange and I think theres an element of trust.