At 73 years young, Helen Jablonski founded PeopleCare, Inc. as an outreach of St. Paul Church in Riverside.
The service-minded senior continued as its executive director until last year, when at age 97 she died and passed the title and legacy to her son, Bruce Jablonski.
“My mother, Helen, started PeopleCare 25 years ago. Actually, she twisted my arm, after I had semi-retired, to join her and help with this effort,” Jablonski said. “So now, what we do is try and provide older adults with access to service providers by providing transportation for them. We also try to provide social opportunities for older adults who cannot get out of their homes, and do not drive anymore. So, that is the basic premise of what we do.”
All those good deeds, Jablonski said, are done through collaborative partnerships with other nonprofit entities, including Aging Care Connections and InterFaith CommunityPartners, the groups who mix, match and share to service older adults in their area.
That’s how Genny Hanna, 68, of Lagrange Park, popped up on PeopleCare, Inc’s. radar. Since then, the nonprofit’s staff and volunteers have become a second family for the homebound senior.
“I have had seizures since I was 11 months old, and I did not know when they were coming on,” Hanna said, explaining that for her a seizure could mean she would be unresponsive, staring straight forward. “But, I just had brain surgery done over a year and one half ago, and not one seizure since. But, before the surgery, it had gotten to the point where I had started falling, and I was cutting my head.”
At her tipping point with the incapacitating disease, Hanna says a volunteer with PeopleCare pulled up in a car to, “take me to the doctor, the hospital. They have even stayed with me during the appointments and that,” Hanna said.
Annually, Jablonski says that “the number of rides we do a year would blow your mind. Last year we had 3,800 services. That includes people calling for information, the rides, visits and things like that. We probably have 50 clients who we serve on a regular basis.”
These are the little acts of kindness that brighten the day of a person who is homebound, and without family to support their emotional and transportation needs, says Judy Mantel, a part-time staffer who coordinates transportation for clients, and has volunteered her time for eight years now.
“The grocery trips we take with them are very important because A, they do need groceries, and B, I notice that a lot of times the seniors will go on these trips and only buy three or four items. The social part of it is phenomenal because they get to become friends with the volunteer driver, a person they may otherwise not have met,” Mantel said
Likewise, Hanna says she is building back community with people who care about her.
“Those of us who are sick, or have no way of doing a few things for ourselves, we need help,” Hanna said. “My husband, and the majority of his family have passed away in the past six years. The staff at PeopleCare call and check up on me from time to time. They have been very helpful, and I am thankful for that.”