How Our Program Began
Helping Hands Outreach to Elders, Inc. was established as a Living At Home/Block Nurse program in June 2001. For 2 years prior to that the program operated as an outreach of several area churches.
In June 2002 we developed by-laws and completed our Articles of Incorporation and were chartered as a nonprofit corporation in the State of Minnesota. Work was completed on our application for tax exemption status and we received our IRS 501(c) (3) Letter of Determination in January of 2003.
Our program has grown rapidly! During the first year our part-time director operated in office space donated by a church. We established a tipline that older adults could use to call for help and promoted the volunteer services through church bulletins and casual chili suppers. By December of our first year we had 69 volunteers and were helping a few people a week. We also received a promise of financial support from five area churches. Board members began speaking to groups and brochures were printed and distributed. In the 2002-2003 year we were able to hire a Service Coordinator to develop our volunteer base and coordinate the service activity. Our level of service activity quickly began to grow exponentially as did our local support. One significant project was to form visiting teams who actually visited over 200 older adults/couples in our service area to learn of any needs and tell them about our services. This led to much more service activity.
During that second year we worked on identifying potential funders and building our case statement and strategy for inviting partners to join us. By the end of the second year we were averaging over 360 hours of service every month. Staff participated in many professional training events. We began to review our assets and build on them. We also moved to office space on Main Street in Holdingford in February 2003 which afforded us much greater visibility and space.
Our program became more active in community affairs and activities. That year we initiated the first-ever City Father and Mother recognition. We also developed volunteer appreciation and ongoing volunteer support. As we engaged more in the life of the community our program grew. The numbers of people who donated their time as a volunteer and their funds as donors grew as well.
Over the next five years our program made significant progress and accomplished the following:
- Regularly published a newsletter
- Implemented regular publicity in several local newspapers
- Completed long-range strategic planning
- Established diversified funding streams
- Built resources and support for memory loss and mental health needs
- Provided regular information and presentations on health-related issues
- Became a founding member and lead agency of the Central Minnesota CARE (Collaborating Area Resources for Elders) Partnership
- Were approved as a Home and Community-based Provider of Alternative Care/Elderly Waiver (AC/EW) services in Stearns County
- Received an Area Agency On Aging contract to provide services under the Older Americans Act
- Established a Memorandum of Understanding with Unity Family Home Care in Little Falls providing all our older adults with a 44% reduced rate for home healthcare and a generous sliding fee scale
- Were publicly recognized as "Meeting All Standards" of the Charities Review Council, the first organization of our size and type to receive this recognition
- Were one of the first nonprofit organizations in Central Minnesota to be trained and implement the Stanford Model of Chronic Disease Self-Management "Living Well with Chronic Conditions" classes
- Developed and conducted exercise classes with in-home follow-up
- Integrated falls prevention assessment and activities into our monthly gatherings of older adults and twice annual health fairs
- Began to use the evidence-based "Matter of Balance" exercise model
- Expanded our services to include adults with disabilities to provide them support
In 2009 our board engaged in a two-year process of strategic planning which led to a significant re-shaping of mission and priorities. Two major shifts hapened at that time: We realized that to truly have a vital impact in the life of our older adults we needed to become more committed to healthy aging and health promotion. While the "safety net" we had been providing all along was important, we needed to help our older adults make healthy choices at an earlier age so that they can age healthy and age well.
Another part of aging healthy was to give more attention to persons whose own health may be at risk because of the demands of caring for a loved one: Family Caregivers. We developed resources and trained a professional to provide support to caregivers that included one-on-one "coaching", caregiver education and training sessions, and a caregiver support group.
The second strategic shift was to embrace another population in our service area who may need some support, namely adults with disabilities. Over the next two years we began to include adults with disabilities in more of our activities and sought ways to support them.
In 2011 our board re-affirmed our new focus on Healthy Aging by approving a name change and a re-branding of our organization to Helping Hands Outreach.