Three Sewickley-based nonprofit organizations recently collaborated on a home-improvement day to help older adults at the Union Aid buildings on Centennial Street in Sewickley.
Valley Care Association, the Union Aid Society and the Secoro Foundation were partners in the effort in which contractors spent a day installing safety modifications in 22 apartments within the Union Aid buildings. The buildings provide affordable housing units for seniors who live within the Quaker Valley School District. Residents pay about 30 percent of their income to live in the buildings.
During the day-long event, the bathing areas in each one-bedroom unit were equipped with safety features such as grab bars and comfort-height commodes. Two grab bars were mounted on the walls of each bathtub/shower stall, where they would be most effective for residents getting in and out of the shower.
The commodes were two inches taller than a typical commode, bringing them to the Americans with Disabilities Act standard as well as making them more comfortable and safer for residents.
In June, John Seitz, program coordinator of Valley Care Association's Home Safe Home program, worked with Matt Long, the program's occupational therapist, to assess the safety of the apartments in the Union Aid buildings. They found that the grab bars and new commode heights would improve safety for the residents.
Four groups of contractors hired by Valley Care Association routinely do similar safety modifications throughout the area, but they rarely work together in one location for an entire day.
"Today, we are working on the entire building," Mr. Seitz said. "We really want to focus on fall risk and safety in the bathing areas."
Helen Rondinelli, a 19-year resident of the Union Aid buildings, applauded the safety improvements.
"I am so happy to get the new commode and the new handle in the bathroom," she said. "The Union Aid is absolutely fabulous with us."
Jean Harvey grew up on the North Side but has lived in the Union Aid building for 16 years. "It's a great place to live," she said. "They really take care of us."
Founded in 1898, the Union Aid Society began as a faith-based organization. Executive director Sherri Leifman said local church charities got together to provide items such as castor oil and prostheses for war veterans in the early 1900s before government help was available.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the organization began providing affordable housing for people in the community, many of whom worked in homes in Sewickley Heights.
The society aimed to ensure that individuals could afford to live in the community where they worked.
Today, the Union Aid Society provides emergency financial assistance with community projects such as back-to-school shopping, Thanksgiving dinners and children's holiday gift programs.
The home-improvement event was funded by the Secoro Foundation, part of Sewickley Savings Bank.
To celebrate the improvements, residents, contractors, board members and staff from the three partnering organizations attended a luncheon in the facility's community room.
Brenda Keirn, board member and chairwoman of the apartment committee, had never heard of any residents falling in their apartments. But, she said, "We are constantly trying to update the building to meet the changing needs of building residents."
"We see this as a proactive measure," Mrs. Leifman agreed. "We've had a long partnership with Valley Care Association, and it's been really wonderful."
Gloria Patterson, a 15-year resident, agreed.
"I love it," she said.
Information: Valley Care Association, 412-749-5257 or www.valleycareassociation.org; Union Aid Society, 412-741-9240 or www.unionaidsociety.org; Secoro Foundation, 412-741-5000 or www.sewickleysavingsbank.com.
Shellie Petri Budzeak, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.