Project H(elping) O(ur) P(recious) E(lderly)
Hope, as defined in the dictionary, means to have desire or expectations for something. Our senior citizens have hope that each new day will provide them with love, laughter, good health, and plenty of family and friends. For those seniors who don’t have the luxury of having family and friends to rely on, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department is providing them with our own H.O.P.E. — Helping Our Precious Elderly.
Our Project H.O.P.E. program services more than 600 elderly residents in Richland County. Assigned to the program are Bill Brown, Leon Cureton, Isaiah Gibson, Debo Hayes, Virgil Manley, Konni Smith, Samuel Thompson, Gus Williams, and Lee Wright. All of our Senior Coordinators are retired law enforcement, and administrative support is provided by Sylvia Ouzts.
Under Project H.O.P.E., these dedicated workers call and visit senior citizens and disabled citizens each month. Other Volunteers make weekly calls to everyone. This is another way of staying in touch, and to find out if there is anything we can do for them. These retired law enforcement officers also visit many senior centers, numerous church, and community groups
During their visits to the home, our officers perform a variety of functions. They conduct safety checks of the home, such as putting in smoke detectors or replacing smoke detector batteries. They also put street numbers on their homes so emergency personnel and other programs, like Meals on Wheels, can easily find them.
We also help our senior citizens identify services to assist them, whether by finding rides, supplying them with fans, or getting them specialized counseling. We work very closely with the Council on Aging, area nursing homes, churches, community groups, and the South Carolina Department of Social Services. Our officers constantly train our senior population about personal safety. We teach them how to avoid being the victim of a flimflam operation, and we work with them to make their homes safer. In extreme cases we can also place a citizen in emergency protective custody if we determine they are not being adequately cared for.
Project HOPE can easily be replicated within any agency. The key to the program’s success lies with the enthusiasm and commitment of the volunteers. The passion to help our elderly is a prerequisite for being a part of this program. After you have the proper people in place, your first priority is to obtain a list of senior citizens from the area you want to service.
Weekly phone calls and visits to those citizens will serve as the barometer for what resources, agencies, and guidance you will need to provide. Most program expenses such as smoke detectors, batteries, street numbers, fans, etc., are covered by donated funds. The only expenses for the program are salaries for part-time employees.
We are constantly recruiting senior volunteers to assist with the growing demand for our services. As the expansion of Project HOPE continues, so does its positive message. Word-of-mouth has brought in a substantial increase in donations, so the program is financially secure. These funds, coupled with a wealth of talented volunteers, means the program will be very viable for years to come.
Helping Our Precious Elderly is something we feel very strongly about. Without the efforts, knowledge, commitment, and expertise of our senior citizens, the remainder of the population would not be enjoying the freedom and lifestyle they have become accustomed to. Our seniors built this country, fought for this country, and love this country. So now it’s our turn to fight and care for them.