ElderHelp to Help Warm Up Seniors in N. Idaho

By Tom Bacon

A small non-profit group in Coeur d' Alene is gearing up to help older people on low fixed incomes cope with the rigors of winter weather. It's called ElderHelp, a group of volunteers which grew out of an effort begun 18 years ago by several Coeur d' Alene realtors.

John Corcoran, who is now president of the group, was dumbfounded when in 1995 he was called upon to fix a water heater for an elderly woman. She told him the heater had not worked for more than 2 years because she lived on only a few hundred dollars a month from Social Security disability benefits. She had to choose, she told him, between eating or having hot water.

Corcoran said ElderHelp now serves about 350 older people in Kootenai County in some way. The group is now run by Jerry Boggs, a retired Peace Corps volunteer and former wildlife biologist. Boggs said ElderHelp volunteers will install handrails and grab bars, repair minor roof or plumbing leaks. weatherize homes, build handicapped ramps and cut and deliver firewood.

The point, he said, is to help older people on fixed incomes stay in their homes as long as possible. He said more than 3,000 seniors in Kootenai County are forced to live on meager incomes as low as $600-$800 a month in some cases.

Now that cooler weather has settled in, Boggs and his crew of volunteers spend their Saturdays whacking away at logs, splitting the wood and then hauling it to more than 90 clients who depend on wood burning stoves to heat their homes.
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