New resources to protect Seniors before, during and after Natural Disasters

Published in RINewsToday on July 18, 2022

Just last year alone, the Washington, DC-based AARP noted that the nation experienced more than 1,300 tornadoes, 21 named storms (with winds of 39 mph or greater), nearly 59,000 wildfires that burned more than 7.13 million acres, along with numerous ice storms and other weather events that caused major damage and fatalities. With hurricane season now approaching, AARP teamed up with the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), announcing the release of new resources specifically designed to help local and state officials and Emergency Management Agency (EMA) officials protect seniors in their communities.

“By 2034, adults ages 65 and over will outnumber those under 18 in the United States for the first time. This has profound implications during natural disasters and extreme weather events,” said Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer at AARP, in a statement announcing the released resources. “State and local leaders and emergency officials must be better equipped and prepared to ensure that older adults are kept safe and their needs are met when a disaster strikes,” warns LeaMond.

The 9-page, Guide to Expanding Mitigation: Making the Connection to Older Adults, released by FEMA, highlights how natural hazards uniquely affect seniors and provides specific remedies as to how local mitigation and emergency planners can include seniors in community efforts to lower their risks.

Throughout its 44 pages, the AARP Disaster Resilience Took Kit features strategies to help local, state and community leaders and aging advocates reduce the risk and impact of disasters on older persons. 

The guide and tool kit are the result of a multi-year collaboration between AARP and FEMA to identify and provide resources, spark ideas and encourage organizations to better engage older Americans in disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery operations. This long-term, strategic alliance aims to advance accessible, safe and livable communities for people of all ages, says AARP.

“Adults aged 65 and older are a growing demographic who are often disproportionately impacted by severe weather. These disparities can be compounded by other factors, such as low-income or chronic illness, producing inequitable results for this vulnerable population when it comes to disaster preparedness,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell in a statement. 

“Effective mitigation planning requires that we consider the needs of all populations, and FEMA’s partnership with AARP on these guides will help community planners ensure our older communities are more resilient in the face of hurricanes and other natural disaster,” she said.

According to AARP, a growing body of evidence compiled shows that seniors are disproportionately impacted by the types of weather-related emergencies and natural disasters that are becoming increasingly frequent and severe. Individuals who have chronic illnesses, functional limitations or disabilities are especially vulnerable, as evidenced by the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic on seniors.  Not only are older people at a higher risk of death from infectious diseases and disasters, but the long-term effects on those who survive often undermine their physical and mental health, economic security and overall well-being.

Although many communities support older adults in preparation for disasters, expanded mitigation planning can help reduce the loss of life and property by minimizing the impact of disasters before they happen, says AARP, noting that mitigation actions and strategies that make cities, towns and neighborhoods safer for older adults can benefit all residents and increase community resilience overall.

Protecting Seniors from Natural Disasters in the Ocean State

“One standout recommendation from the AARP/FEMA report was the adoption of more resilient and efficient building and land use standards, including the consideration of hazards in siting senior living facilities,” says RI Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, who oversees the Emergency Management Advisory Council that reviews information and programs regarding emergency management and makes recommendations to the Governor on these issues.

“One of my highest priorities is the creation of more affordable housing of every kind, and we have to walk the line of growing not only quickly, but thoughtfully. As we consider how to use this budget’s $250 million investment in housing, we want to ensure that new developments meet FEMA standards and will keep Rhode Islanders safe. We’re already working with local communities’ EMA departments to review their community disaster preparedness plans, as well as their applications for FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grants — funding to help implement exactly the strategies outlined in this report,” she says.

“One omission that stands out to me is resources for unhoused seniors. According to the Rhode Island Coalition to End Homelessness’s 2021 State of Homelessness report, over 500 Rhode Islanders aged 55 or older experienced homelessness over the course of a year. We need to strongly consider what kinds of hazard mitigation strategies could help this uniquely vulnerable population. Additionally, Rhode Island must especially focus on preparing sustainable mitigation and response systems that account for the effect of climate change on our coastal communities, which we know have large senior populations and will become increasingly vulnerable to flooding,” says Matos.

”FEMA has provided a very valuable tool with the Guide to Expanding Mitigation – Making the Connection to Older Adults guide. At the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency,  we work with our local emergency managers, non-profits (Rhode Island Community Food Bank, Red Cross of Rhode Island, United Way and more) and other state agencies including the Department of Health and the Office of Healthy Aging to ensure older Rhode Islanders have the resources they need when disaster strikes. These reports will help us in our efforts to continue to support individuals in this vulnerable group,” says Director Marc Pappas, of the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency.

“Preparedness is a core function of public health. This is especially true when it comes to climate change and older adults. As these resources highlight, it is critical that the unique needs of older adults are considered when planning for weather-related emergencies and natural disasters. This is already a priority for us at the Rhode Island Department of Health when it comes to emergency preparedness, and it will continue to be a focus,” says Joseph Wendelken, Public Relation Officer for the Rhode Island Department of Health.

“Before, during and after a natural disaster, the safety and wellbeing of older Rhode Islanders must always be a top concern,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Catherine Taylor

“Emergency planners and managers at the state and especially local levels, along with first responders and many others, play a critical role in reducing anxiety and any subsequent harm when disaster strikes. Whether it’s a hurricane, flooding, extreme heat or infectious disease, ongoing planning and the coordination of all available resources is necessary to minimize consequences,” says Taylor.

“The AARP/FEMA guide and toolkit can go a long way towards mitigating deaths and long-term impacts among Rhode Island’s most vulnerable citizens. We encourage all leaders involved in Rhode Island public safety and public health to take advantage of this new resource. There are many aspects of age-friendly, livable communities – resilience in the face of disaster is chief among them,” Taylor adds.

AARP Rhode Island Volunteer State President Marcus Mitchell has firsthand disaster management experience. “As a former Division Commander with the US Coast Guard Auxiliary and Community Emergency Response Team Instructor for Providence Emergency Management Agency, I am actively involved with emergency & disaster mitigation, response and recovery efforts that dramatically and profoundly impact our older population physically, emotionally and financially,” he said. 

“Not only are seniors often hit first and hardest but their families are deeply affected as well,” Mitchell added. “We hope to save lives throughout the community, mitigate damages and reduce injury by vigorously distributing the new guide and toolkit to our members and the community at large.”

West Warwick resident Vincent Marzullo gives a thumbs up to AARP/FEMA’s released resources, saying that their information will be extremely valuable to the State and local EMA officials charged with protecting the state’s aging and vulnerable population during natural disasters. “Several barriers prevent older adults from evacuating when needed. Many older adults cannot drive and do not have access to reliable, accessible public transportation, depend on home-based medical equipment, require specialized accessibility supports, or cannot bring pets when evacuating. Some older adults are caregivers to spouses or partners with one or more vulnerabilities that may also hinder their ability to take timely action and remain safe, says Marzullo, who served for 31 years as a federal civil rights & social justice director for the Corporation for National & Community Service and a Federal Disaster Cadre Coordinator for the National Service Agency.

“State and local EMA officials must regularly outreach to the older Rhode Islander on the Rhode Island Department of Health’s “Special Needs Emergency Registry” to check their status/needs, especially individuals who are isolated and immobile.  There are approximately 15,000 individuals with chronic illnesses that have opted-in to the registry in order to be checked in times of emergency/disasters.  These older adults are vulnerable and need periodic support,” says Marzullo.

Marzullo calls for on-going disaster resilience webinars to be available to better prepare State and local EMA officials and organizations to respond to sudden natural disasters.  Targeted organizations might include the Red Cross, AARP RI, Senior Agenda Coalition of RI, Senior Center Directors Association, AARP members, RIElder Info, 211/The Point, and the Emergency Management Advisory Council (EMAC).

Melissa Carden, RIEMA’s Chief Public Affairs Officer says while winter storms, hurricanes and flooding are most common in the Ocean State, expect climate change to have a profound effect on the weather, including more storms and greater precipitation. “This fuels other extreme weather events like flooding (coastal and inland – remember the flooding in RI in 2010). Although scientists are uncertain whether climate change will lead to an increase in the number of hurricanes, there is more confidence that warmer ocean temperatures and higher sea levels are expected to increase their intensity and impacts.”

 To view and download the Guide to Expanding Mitigation: Making the Connection to Older Adults, visit  https://www.fema.gov/sites/default/files/documents/fema_mitigation-guide_older-

adults.pdf

To download a PDF of the AARP Disaster Resilience Tool Kit, featuring strategies to help local, state and community leaders and advocates reduce the risk and impacts of disasters on older adults, go to  https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/livable-communities/tool-kits-resources/2022/AARP%20Disaster%20Resilience%20Tool%20Kit-singles-060122-.pdf

The following (free) Livable Publication booklets and guides, go to https://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/tool-kits-resources/livable-publications-order-form/https://www.homecareassistancerhodeisland.com/

Senior Agenda Coalition of RI honors senior heroes

Published in RINewstoday on May 23, 2022

During Older Americans Month, it was a wonderful time to break bread, catch up with old friends and to recognize outstanding Rhode Island senior advocates. After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, over 100 people gathered at the Providence Marriott Downtown to attend the Senior Agenda Coalition of Rhode Island’s [link to members https://senioragendari.org/coalition ] (SACRI) 6th Annual Awards “Celebrating our Senior Heroes,” to honor eight honorees from the government, private and community agency sectors.

Kicking off the awards luncheon, SACRI’s Executive Director Bernard J. Beaudreau, recognized and thanked a slew of elected leaders and state officials in attendance: Lt. Governor Sabina Matos; Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea and Democratic candidate for Governor; Director Maria Cimini, Director, Office of Healthy Aging; Senate President Dominick Ruggerio (D-District 4) who brought Senate Majority Leader Michael J. McCaffrey (D-District 29); Deputy Senate Majority Leaders James Seveney (D-District 11) and Senators Sandra Cano (D-District 9); Josh Miller (D-District 28); House Deputy Majority Leader Laura Carson (D-District 75); House Leader Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-District 2);Terri Cortvriend (D-District 72); Deborah Ruggiero (D-District 74); and Susan Donovan, (D-District 69). Former Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed, now serving as president of the Rhode Island Hospital Association, also attended.

Beaudreau, assisted by Lt. Governor Sabina Matos, called up each honoree to be presented with a citation and inscribed box. This year’s advocate heroes are: Rhode Island Lawmakers, House Leader Christopher R. Blazejewski, and Senators Mary Ellen Goodwin, and former State Senator Harold Metts, Elder Information Specialist Deborah Burton, SCACRI Volunteer and adviser Doris Stearn Donovan, Former SACRI Executive Director William Flynn, Case Manager Extraordinaire Saul Richman, and Community Organizer Marjorie Waters. (see bios below)

“Taking a moment to acknowledge and thank those who have stood out as leaders, people who made the extra effort for the greater good, whether being an elected leader, or work/volunteer for a community agency is an important part of building our members for change,” says Beaudreau. “These honored heroes inspire and motivate us to step up to the plate and get in the [legislative] game. They fuel us all to do our part,” he says.

Praising SACRI’s Senior Heroes

Lt. Governor Sabina Matos, who co-chairs the state’s Long-Term Care Coordinating Council (LTCCC) also saluted SACRI’s honorees. “Thank you to the awardees & the Coalition for your tireless advocacy & service to older adults in our state,” Matos said.

Rhode Island House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi offered his congratulations.

“I applaud all the award-winners, particularly House Majority Leader Blazejewski and Senate Majority Whip Goodwin. They are well-deserving of this honor due to their demanding work and dedication on many senior issues. They were the respective House and Senate sponsors of a bill passed a few years back which established an individual provider model for home care in Rhode Island. This model gives seniors another option to be cared for at home and remain connected to their communities and families. Older residents prefer home care. Not only is it more comfortable for seniors, but it is also more cost-effective,” he said.

According to Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio, Sens. Goodwin, Metts and Representative Christopher Blazejewski have been tremendous advocates for Rhode Island’s seniors, and they are incredibly deserving of this recognition.

“Whip Goodwin has long been a champion for seniors and people living with disabilities in our state. Last year, she helped shepherd the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act into law, a critical step in addressing the resident care crisis in Rhode Island by setting new staffing requirements and minimum standards of care.

In 2018, she helped lead a successful effort to expand home-based care for seniors and the disabled. She also worked to improve reimbursement rates for nursing homes, among many other accomplishments,” said Senate President Ruggerio.

“During his decades in the General Assembly, former Senator Metts was a powerful advocate for the Meals on Wheels program, as well as efforts to restore free bus passes for low-income seniors and people living with disabilities. His work has improved the lives of thousands of Rhode Islanders, including many of the most vulnerable members of our communities. I am forever grateful for his service and his friendship,” notes the Senate President.

Two SACRI Board members also gave thumbs-up to the latest group of SACRI heroes, too.

“It was exciting to see such great participation in the luncheon to honor this year’s senior heroes,” says Maureen Maigret, the Senior Agenda’s policy adviser who serves on its Board. “This year’s heroes included both legislative leaders who have been strong advocates for seniors and members of the community who work to bring dignity, respect, and an excellent quality of life for older Rhode Islanders. I salute them,” says Maigret.

According to Maigret, the state’s legislative leaders have also been responsive to senior advocates, supporting the creating the Aging in Community Subcommittee of the Long-Term Care Coordinating Council promoted by the Senior Agenda Coalition.

“There are a variety of Senior Heroes in our community, and it is important for the Senior Agenda Coalition of RI to pause and give recognition to these selfless individuals. These soldiers for service are truly compassionate people who advocate for legislative changes that will improve “living in place” for older adults/families,” says Vin Marzullo, a well-known aging advocate who served as a federal civil rights and national service administrator. They help organize and promote the use of local elder services (nutrition, health care, and recreational), and they help protect and aid seniors who are victims of abuse,” noted the West Warwick resident, one of the newest Senior Agenda Board Members.

Honorees at SACRI’s Recognition

Deborah Burton expressed her gratitude for being given the prestigious SACRI recognition. “As advocates, we lean into our work to make the world a better place for all of us without necessarily being aware of the ripple effect we have on our community,” says Deb Burton, gerontologist and Executive Director of RI Elder Information, a website providing resources to older Rhode Islanders. “I was extremely honored to be recognized by Senior Agenda Coalition as a Senior Hero! The other nominees are wonderful people tirelessly doing amazing advocacy work and I am proud to be counted among them,” she adds.

Senator Goodwin stated that she “felt humbled to be included among such a distinguished group of honorees, especially my friend Harold Metts. This award is incredibly special to me, and to receive it from an organization as vital and esteemed as the SACRI is extremely meaningful,” she said, noting that this organization has been an incredible ally in my work and the work of my colleagues, and I know it will continue to be in the future.”

SACRI is an independent and diverse coalition of agency and individual members.  Its mission is to mobilize people to achieve power in order to implement an agenda that improves the quality of life of Rhode Island seniors.  For details about this group, go to https://senioragendari.org/

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Bios of Honorees:

House Leader Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-District 2) — For over 12 years, Rep. Blazejewski has championed environmental protection, education, civil rights, senior services, health care, and economic opportunity for working families. Among the senior issues he has advocated for over the years, Blazejewski worked tirelessly to pass legislation creating an Independent Provider (IP) program for home care in Rhode Island. That innovative program is helping expand the home care workforce. He also helped win its continued funding. Responding the COVID’s impact on nursing home residents, he helped pass legislation raising quality standards for nursing homes. He again worked with the Senior Agenda Coalition to help pass the Nursing Home Safe Staffing and Quality Care Act.

Deborah Burton — As Executive Director of RI Elder Info and creator of rielderinfo.com, Burton maintains the most comprehensive, expert-curated, multilingual resources for Seniors, Caregivers and Professionals in Rhode Island. She is the creator and host of Friday Friends-a weekly livestream and podcast and serves as Master of Ceremonies for RI Elder Info’s Virtual Senior Resource Fairs, annual Calling All Veterans Day and annual Calling All Women Warriors.

For over 30 years, Burton has been a strong advocate for aging independently, in the community of our choosing, surrounded by those that we care for and who care for us. She has provided outreach and education to the community on how to achieve these goals.Doris Stearn Donovan

Doris Stearn Donovan — The deputy director of the Rhode Island Foundation has become a powerful advocate for older seniors. During SACRI’s 2020 Strategic Plan sessions, Donovan urged that in the years ahead the organization work harder to combat ageism, especially discrimination toward people over age 75. Donovan has an impressive career. She was valedictorian of her class at Bown; an expert in educational-program evaluation. She has served also served on many boards including Children’s Friend and the George Wiley Center.

William F. Flynn – Under his leadership, hundreds of older Rhode Islanders have engaged in successful citizen action to win public policy changes over the years. Flynn served as served as SACRI’s Executive Director from 2008 to early 2022. Prior to joining the Coalition, he held leadership positions at the RI Community Food Bank, George Wiley Center, and Urban League of Rhode Island. During Flynn’s tenure at SACRI, the organization achieved important wins. These included: Permanent state funding for the No-Fare Bus Pass Program for seniors and persons with disabilities; Increasing annual funding for Meals on Wheels and Senior Centers; Higher pay for home health care workers; Raising the Bar legislation for increased staffing and pay increases for direct care providers in nursing homes; and, Increasing eligibility for moderate income seniors for home care cost-share options.

Senator Maryellen Goodwin — With over 36 years in the Senate under her belt, the  Rhode Island Senate Majority Whip, the third-ranking member of the Senate Leadership, has been a fierce advocate and effective advocate for seniors in the Senate. Last legislative session, the Senator helped to enact the Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act into law, setting new staffing requirements and minimum standards of care.

In 2018, she also pushed to expand home-based care for seniors and the disabled along with working to  improve reimbursement rates for nursing homes.

Senator Harold Metts – After serving as State Representative from 1984 to 1998, Metts would later win a seat in the upper Chamber in 2004, serving until 2020. Metts. Served as President, vice president and twice Secretary of The Rhode Island Black Caucus of State Legislators; and former Secretary/chaplain of The Rhode Island Caucus of Black and Latino State Legislators. During his 30 years in the General Assembly, the Senator was an advocate for the Meals on Wheels program, and for touring free bus passes for low-income seniors and people living with disabilities.

Saul Richman – For several years Richman has worked a case manager for Protective Services for Tri-County Community Action Agency. He also assists seniors to learn more about Medicare benefit. When the state of Rhode Island gets a report that an older adult needs assistance, Richman makes a home visit, gathers information, and works to provide them with appropriate public services. His tireless efforts have helped to resolve issues of countless senior clients. Oftentimes he goes beyond his duties to ensure the safety and security that his clients require, working well beyond his workday scheduled.

Marjorie Waters – Serves as a Community Organizer for the Rhode Island Organizing Project (RIOP), a leadership role that she has held over the past eight years. As to her organizing strategy, Waters listens to what older adults are saying. Her rule is “don’t think you know what you’re going to hear..”  She listens, and then she acts. Before RIOP, Marjorie directed the Westminster Senior Center in Providence after an earlier career in information technology. Waters was a leader in both the Home Care Independence Provider Program and the Raise the Bar coalitions, both of which passed the legislature and have a profound impact of the daily and quality of living situations for those who need homecare and nursing home care.

About the Senior Agenda Coalition:

https://senioragendari.org

The Senior Agenda Coalition is an independent and diverse coalition of agency and individual members. Our mission is to mobilize people to achieve power in order to implement an agenda that improves the quality of life of older Rhode Islanders. We accomplish this through community organizingpublic education and legislative advocacy.

To read all articles by Herb Weiss, go to: https://rinewstoday.com/herb-weiss/

RI Minority Elder Task Force Spotlights ‘Everyday Heroes’

Published in the Woonsocket Call on November 5, 2017

Last Thursday, the Rhode Island Minority Elder Task Force (RIMETF), a nonprofit group that advocates for cultural competent services for elders from minority groups, recognized “Everyday Heroes” who make a difference in the community while also raising money to provide limited emergency assistance to low-income seniors in crisis situations.

RIMETF fund raising efforts combine with grants to fulfill its mission of financially helping low-income seniors, says Susan Sweet, the nonprofit’s founder and treasurer. RIMETF provides $200 to low income seniors to help pay utility costs, rent, food, medications, clothing, furniture, personal healthcare items and other necessities of life, she says, noting that approximately 80 grants, about half going to minority applicants, are given out annually.

Sweet says, “During the last two decades, RIMETF provided more than $53,000 in grants, successfully raising approximately $7,000 at the November 2 fundraiser. Over 150 supporters in attendance from around the state came to the East Providence Cape Verdean Progressive Center to honor eleven ‘Everyday Heroes’ who made outstanding contributions to many people throughout Rhode Island.”

According to Chairperson Lori Brennan-Almeida, her nonprofit group’s fundraising efforts are fluid, changing every year as needed. “Last year the nonprofit group held a full-day learning conference on Cultural Competence in Healthcare and Social Services for nurses, social workers and Certified Nursing Assistants, attracting over 100 attendees.”

“The idea for recognizing unsung heroes who work with Rhode Island’s minority residents was tossed around for the past couple of years,” says Almeida, noting that some of the honorees of this year’s fundraiser had never been recognized for their outstanding work

Introducing RIMETF’s 2007 “Everyday Heroes”…

Kathy Blunt

After Blunt, at 74 years of age, initially interviewed at Orchard View Manor, she got a letter a week later informing her that she did not get the job. Luckily for the residents, the position became open again and she was hired at the East Providence-based nursing facility in 2010 and quickly became an “indispensable gift to residents and a team builder between departments,” say facility staff.

Joseph Caffey, Sr.

The late Joseph Caffey, Sr., a visionary for high standards of service in affordable housing during his 24 years as the President and CEO of Omni Development and a leader in the Rhode Island’s affordable housing sector, were key to his recognition by RIMETF. Caffey’s vision led him to partner with the Providence Center to bring a mental health satellite office to the Olneyville-based Valley Apartments to assist the mental health needs of the tenants. He also hired employees with social work degrees to provide clinical services to tenants.

Trudence “Trudy” Conroy

Staff at the Newport County Senior Health Insurance Program (SHIP) consider Trudy to be a model volunteer who brings her knowledge, warm wit and compassion into counseling and advice to assist Medicare eligible seniors choose a Medicare insurance plan that fits their specific health needs. Trudy has amassed almost 700 hours as a SHIP volunteer over the past two years.

Carol Corey

For over 20 years, Corey, 75, of West Warwick, has visited the sick and lonely residing in local nursing facilities and hospitals. She shops for these individuals, bringing them needed toiletries, special treats, flowers, and even small articles of clothing, all paid on her own. She is known for being “low key” and never forgetting birthdays or special occasions, and celebrating holidays with people who have no friends or family.

Garo Emdjian

In 1980 Emdjian, now 76, emigrated from Armenia to the U.S. and he has never looked back. Emdjian’s life mission now is to give back to his adopted country, for over 25 years giving countless volunteer hours to local nonprofit agencies that have included Rhode Island Meals-on-Wheels, Fox Point Senior Center, Federal Hill House, Hamilton House, the Blood Bank and Fox Point Manor. Despite the many honors he has received over the years, Emdjian will tell you he does not volunteer for the recognition but for the true love and commitment to be of service to others.

Cynthia Hiatt, Esq.

Just six months after Hiatt retired from a 37 year career serving as Chief Legal Counsel for the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, she came back to fight discrimination and racism again by serving as one of the seven governor-appointed commissioners of the Commission. As a volunteer Hiatt meets monthly to rule on cases and presides over hearings and investigative conferences, continuing to fight to enforce antidiscrimination laws and to end discrimination against older Rhode Islanders, the disabled and people of color.

Adrienne Marchetti

Those who know Marchetti as Director of the Pawtucket Soup Kitchen, use descriptive words such as: competent, respectful, creative, talented, selfless, as well as generous, and always welcoming to those she serves. Adrienne works 7 days a week from early morning until evening cooking and serving food to some of the poorest residents and homeless individuals in Pawtucket. Even in winter, after a very long day serving those who come to her soup kitchen, she prepares a satisfying supper and what is left over, she delivers to the night shelter at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to feed their 15 homeless residents.

Christine Reitman

For 26 years, Reitman, a Resident Service Coordinator at Property Advisory Group, has always advocated for her residents, always going above and beyond her normal duties. Recognizing the low income of her residents along with their social and health issues, she organized Saturday coffee hours, passing out needed everyday items to attendees, personally purchased from a local dollar store. The regular gatherings provide residents with a social network and informal forum to talk about personal issues.

Irene Sadlik

Coming to the United States from the Czech Republic nearly 30 years ago, Sadlik, with no formal training in health care, found her life’s passion working for the housekeeping department in a nursing facility. The former seamstress had an exceptional rapport with the residents, quickly responding to their needs and becoming their tireless advocate. Ultimately, to further her goal of working with older Rhode Islander’s she left her job at the nursing facility and opened up her own non-skilled home care agency. She has since taken a cancer patient into her home to try to give her a chance to enjoy her final days.

Mary Kay Uchmanowicz

Uchmanowicz, a Board Certified Audiologist who founded the Smithfield-based Twin Rivers Hearing Health in Smithfield in 2001, uses her empathy and specialized training to treat hearing problems of her older patients. Over the years, she has collected discarded hearing aids and brought them to the Philippines, spending weeks screening and fitting underprivileged children and adults with these donated hearing aids. “It is a privilege to help others,” says the audiologist who volunteers her time providing ear checks, audiometric testing, cleaning hearing aids, and answering questions at North Providence Senior Center and the Villa at St Antoine.

Henrietta “Henrie” Tonia White-Holder

White-Holder, founder and CEO of Higher Ground International, is committed to bringing clean water and sanitation to her native Liberia. Through the nonprofit organization, she opened the new RUKIYA (uplifting) Center on the south side of Providence, which focuses on programs for African immigrants, elders and youth, literacy and workforce issues. Henrie served on the United Way’s Executive Director Leadership Circle, received the Providence Newspaper Guild Public Service Award, the Extraordinary Woman Award for Education, and was conferred the RI Liberian Humanitarian Award.

For more details regarding the work of the RI Minority Elder Task Force or to make a donation, write RIMETF, 5 Leahy Street, Rumford, RI 02916 or call Lori Brennan Almeida, Chairperson, at 401-497-1287.