by Joyce Trudel

The year was 2003; my mother and father, Emma and Francis Woods were both eighty-nine (89) years of age, living independently in Akron, New York. I am their daughter, Joyce.

I was becoming more and more concerned about my parent’s safety and independence; my mother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and my father was legally blind. My father did not want to give up their independence yet I could see it was becoming more and more difficult each day for them to continue to take care of themselves.

  • They required assistance with transportation to and from their doctor and dentist appointments which were approximately 15 miles away.
  • They could no longer transport themselves to the grocery store or to their hairdressers and barbershop.
  • House cleaning, laundry, and minor home repairs were virtually impossible for them.

I knew I could not continually take time off from work so I began researching and praying for a solution. I began looking into assisted living communities even though my parents really wanted to remain in their home in Akron. I was uncertain how we were going to meet their needs and still allow them to remain in their home that they cherished.

Hearts and Hands: Faith in Action connects the elderly, those with health concerns, and their care givers in underserved communities with trained volunteers ~ to uphold their dignity ~ to improve quality of life ~ to enhance their ability to live in their home of choice.-Mission Statement

In June 2003, I happened to go to a street sale in their town. Some lady literally jumped in front of me, handed me a Hearts and Handscoffee mug and asked me if I had ever heard of this organization. I said “no” and she proceeded to explain to me the mission and services of Hearts and Hands-Faith in Action.

I told her that these services were exactly what I was searching for to assist my parents. I also told her it seemed hard to believe such services came without a fee. She assured me that there was no charge for Hearts and Hands services and gave me the phone number to call to set up an intake interview.

Now, I had to run this by my father who was a very proud and independent man. He did not like to accept what he termed to be charity. I explained what was told to me and asked if he would just meet with someone from Hearts and Hands to see if they could be of assistance to him and my mother. He finally agreed and I called and made the appointment with the organization’s founder, Rev. Mary Ann Pula, to see if Hearts and Hands services would meet my parent’s needs.

Well, the interview went very smooth and my parents started receiving assistance on July 25th 2003. Hearts and Hands’ volunteers assisted them both with transportation to medical appointments, food shopping, and the hairdressers. They even helped with the yard work and a few minor home repairs. My parents truly enjoyed the socialization opportunities each time a trained and caring volunteer came to assist them. In fact, many friendships were created through these opportunities. Hearts and Hands volunteers not only helped my parents, they helped me as well. It eased my mind tremendously knowing my parent’s needs were being met when I was unable to be there myself. Talk about the power of prayer!

For over three years, my parents were able to remain in their home rather than moving to an assisted living facility. Even when they did eventually move into a facility in 2006, Hearts and Hands staff assisted with the transition and their volunteers continued to provide haircuts and companion visits.

My father passed away in 2007 at age 93 and my mother in 2008 at the age of 94. I believe without Hearts and Hands, my parents’ quality of life during their final years would have been less fulfilling for them and much more stressful for our whole family.

The dedicated volunteers and staff are priceless to our community. In fact, I figured that by delaying my parents move to an assisted living facility by three years, Hearts and Hands saved taxpayers (via Medicare) and my family close to four hundred thousand dollars ($400,000) combined.

Thank the Lord for bringing Hearts and Hands to our community and I pray HE will soon bring their neighbor helping neighbor ministry to all of Western New York.

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