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Helping community relationships flourish with seniors

Program connects volunteers with mowers and lawns in need

 

A small group of volunteers is tending to the yards of their community members through a new program offered by Senior Resources of Freeborn County.

According to Senior Resources Executive Director Jackie Hillman, business donations allowed Senior Resources to purchase four lawn mowers, two riding and two push, for volunteers to use as part of their mowing program.

Lindsay Kramer, advocacy assistant and chore manager for Senior Resources of Freeborn County, said volunteers sign a contract with Senior Resources. Both parties agree that, after a certain amount of time and a certain number of clients are cared for, the volunteer will earn the mower as payment for services rendered. Volunteers are responsible for maintenance and insurance of the mower.

“My hopes are that part of what we’re doing is helping develop relationships between people, you know, that once they develop that relationship they’ll probably feel obligated or want to help these people out,” Kramer said.

Hillman said this could extend beyond lawn care.

“We find many times that when you match up a volunteer with an older person it seems that sometimes the relationship will flourish and that’s what we really want,” she said.

Josh Kramer places the slatting for the deck rail back in place for the client whose lawn he mows through a Senior Resources program. – Sarah Kocher/Albert Lea Tribune

The program supplements work done by contractors, which Hillman said Senior Resources of Freeborn County still uses. However, Kramer said she hopes the program alleviates some of the number of lawns cared for by contractors, citing a large number of lawns as a potential reason why a contractor may not be able to fully service a client’s individual lawn needs.

Because volunteers are earning a lawn mower through their work, Kramer said she hopes it incentivizes volunteers to do a good job.

Those eligible for having their lawns mowed by Senior Resources of Freeborn County are Freeborn County residents 60 or older. Customers pay on a sliding, income-based fee scale.

Overall, Kramer estimates Senior Resources cares for approximately 25 to 30 lawns.

One of those lawns belongs to client Joan Stuke, who has had her lawn mowed by Josh Kramer and his riding mower since mid-May.

“I was desperate to get somebody,” Stuke said. The people who helped her before could not mow during the summer. She said she looked around the community for notices of help before turning to Senior Resources of Freeborn County. She said Kramer comes to mow her lawn about once a week.

“It’s great,” she said.

So far, Kramer said the program has run smoothly. It is about a month old, although Hillman said it has been in the works for longer.

“We’ve been thinking about it for a while,” she said — close to a year.

Although she acknowledged it was a reach, Kramer said an ideal future for the program would see every senior in Freeborn County having their lawn mowed by Senior Resources.

“When you’re dreaming big, that’s what it looks like to me,” Kramer said.

Kramer said one of the four mowers, a push mower, is still available for a volunteer. Interested individuals can call Kramer at 377-7433.

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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