Lawn program helps seniors stay independent

Volunteers assist low-income seniors with mowing, yard work.
Thursday, July 1, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:18 a.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

From her home off the Midway exit west of Columbia, 92-year-old Ruby Cook still drives to town three times a week to volunteer at the Boone County Council on Aging. She works at the sign-in desk and makes change for those who need it.

“Besides my stroke and a few minor ailments, I’m doing great,” Cook said.

Cook washes her own dishes and keeps her house neat and clean. The one thing she cannot do is work in her 2-acre yard.

Because of her stroke five years ago, Cook needs a walker to move around. Two years ago she had to quit working in the yard. So after years of volunteering for the BCCA, she has asked for a volunteer.

The BCCA program pairs low-income seniors with volunteers to mow their lawn and help with yard work. The program began about 10 years ago. This year the program includes 28 seniors but is short on volunteers, said Andrea Kolb, the senior services specialist.

Matt Kolb, Andrea’s husband, is Cook’s BCCA volunteer. He goes out to Cook’s house every Friday to mow her lawn and help with other general lawn care. Cook’s ranch house sits on 2 acres of land that is not flat by any means. The house is also surrounded by another 6 acres of hay that belonged to Cook’s husband, Robert, who died in 1986.

Cook has been a volunteer for the BCCA since 1988.

“I have never needed anyone till now,” Cook said. “I was able to do most of the yard work myself until this past year, but I can still do my own housework.”

Without Matt Kolb, Cook would have to pay a professional to mow her lawn each week. Last year, she paid $28 every other week to have her lawn mowed.

“Being on a fixed income, it cost too much to have to pay someone to do it,” she said.

The BCCA offers other beneficial programs for seniors, Andrea Kolb said. Some of the programs include a friendly visiting program that pairs lonely seniors with volunteers, and programs that transport seniors to grocery stores and to doctor appointments. In the winter, the BCCA asks volunteers to help seniors with shoveling snow and clearing any winter debris that might make their home unsafe.

“I really appreciate what the BCCA does for me,” Cook said. “I’m not ready to give it all up. I want to do as much as I can for myself.”

For the mowing program, the BCCA attempts to pair seniors with volunteers who live in the same area, making the lawn mower easier to transport. For people who are paired together and don’t live in the same neighborhood the BCCA will provide a lawn mower that can be kept at the senior’s house for convenience. The BCCA asks that volunteers help their senior once a week during the summer.

For seniors to qualify for the program they must be over 55 years of age and be classified as low- income. The mission for the BCCA is to help seniors maintain independence and security to stay safely in their own homes for as long as possible, said Andrea Kolb.

“It is a good opportunity to help someone in need, especially when a private service is too expensive,” Matt Kolb said. “It only takes me a couple hours to do, and it helps Ruby.”

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