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Northwest Neighbors Network

An option for service and aging in place

Northwest Neighbors Network volunteer Rick McClurg assisting neighborhood member Jean Bryant.

...by Rick McClurg

My wife, Chris, and I put our roots down in Shoreline more than three decades ago, where we raised two children. After our retirement a couple of years ago, we wanted to put more of our energy into our community. As we explored ways to do that last spring, we came across a locally-based non-profit organization, Northwest Neighbors Network (NNN). NNN’s mission is to “connect neighbors to create a sustainable, thriving intergenerational network of community volunteers and support for our members as they enjoy living in their homes and participating in enriching social, educational and wellness activities.” This was just the sort of thing we were looking for!

We attended a couple of meetings and discovered that NNN is part of a national network of locally run non-profit organizations based on the Village model (created about 20 years ago in the Boston region). What is most appealing to us is that NNN is run by and sustained by the efforts of volunteers, some of whom—like us—might end up being served by the organization down the road. In this case, the saying is true: “What goes around comes around!”

Of course, that isn’t the primary reason why we have become part of NNN. We’re finding a lot of gratification in knowing that we are a resource for those who have a need. NNN matches volunteers and their skillsets with what members need. In my case, as a retired building contractor, I go to members’ homes and replace a screen door, install a shelf or replace a hard-to-reach lightbulb. Chris, as a former medical provider, is ideally suited to help schedule and transport people to appointments, prepare an occasional meal or sit with a member while a family member attends to another commitment. While we understand that sometimes needs are complex, NNN addresses the simple needs that are just out of reach for some.

As a grassroots membership-supported organization, NNN is currently run by a solid corps of volunteers with a growing number of members in an area that includes Shoreline, Lake Forest Park, Edmonds, Esperance, Mountlake Terrace, Brier and Lynnwood. Membership fees go toward paying for basic infrastructure and for outreach activities that inform our regional communities about who we are and what we do. In return, we are able to offer transportation to appointments, help with light gardening, minor home repairs, social, educational and wellness activities, along with help identifying external service providers. Our fee structure is flexible, with an upper limit of $50 per month per individual. We use individualized interviews to determine the optimal match between what a person needs and what they can fit into their budget. NNN’s goal is to find ways to be as inclusive as possible, regardless of income, while still being able to cover its own costs.

It may be several years before Chris and I will avail ourselves of what NNN offers in terms of “aging in place,” but in the meantime, it feels good to be enjoying our roles as volunteers, helping others out, getting to meet interesting people and building a stronger sense of community.

There are several “village” neighborhoods in the greater Seattle neighborhood where neighbors are helping neighbors age in place. A map of “villages” can be found at www. vtvnetwork.org/villagemap. Information about NNN, the neighborhood network discussed in this article, can be found at www. northwestneighborsnetwork.org or by calling 206-800-3009.