When days get tough, Leslie Schultz, founder and president of Supporting Older Adults through Resources Inc. (SOAR) thinks of one particular woman.
She could not afford food and wasn’t eating, and so she called SOAR for help.
SOAR was able to provide her with food and several other needs during an 18-month period.
One day, a funeral director called Schultz to tell her the woman had died at a local nursing home, and the only phone number found in her contact list was for SOAR.
“She knew that she had someone in her final days,” Schultz recalled. “That story has resonated with me since it happened. I reflect on that often. When there are days when you get frustrated and you are like, ‘How can this all work?’ You reflect on that story and similar ones like it. You know you make a difference in someone’s life and, in many instances, it is in the final days, so that has great meaning.”
Schultz has been helping older adults since 2000, working in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors.
“I saw seniors that had the money to obtain services and pay for the things that they needed and I saw seniors that didn’t have the resources and there was really nowhere to turn,” she said. “Nobody to help you pay a utility bill or pay some additional medical bills or understand your particular situation. There was no one doing that.”
After SOAR’s founding in 2013, the nonprofit took about 18 months to generate funds and infrastructure before taking its first clients in 2015. Basic requirements for aid include that clients must be at least 65 years old, live in Frederick County and have an income of less than $2,100 per month.
Requests to SOAR can run the gamut from repairing a mailbox to helping to find a home for a homeless senior. Once a need is met, the nonprofit will often help the senior in other areas as well. There are five main areas where they see a large number of requests: food, housing, medication, transportation and medical equipment.
The nonprofit helps an average of 30 people each month.
“The average applicant that we get makes about $900 a month and that doesn’t go very far in Frederick County,” Schultz said.
About 75 percent of SOAR’s clients are from professional referrals including doctors, social workers, nurses, therapists and hospice workers. The rest are self-referrals, but anyone may request help for an older adult.
Schultz notes the nonprofit has grown so quickly because the demand was there.