SOAR helps seniors

Elderly woman smiling

An elderly Frederick woman suffering from cancer needed some help in early January. She got in touch with representatives of SOAR, a new group in Frederick County that tries to aid seniors in need.

The woman was scheduled to go to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for her cancer treatments, and needed financial help for transportation to get there.

Within two days, volunteers from SOAR, which stands for Supporting Older Adults through Resources, paid for someone to take her to her appointment and back.

She is the first person that SOAR has helped this year, but she will not be the last.

“I’d like to touch 500 people by the end of the year,” said Leslie Schultz, founder of the group. “Our goal is to meet the unmet essential needs of seniors,”

“We’re looking for people who have fallen through the cracks,” said Beth Montgomery, one of the seven members on the board of the nonprofit organization.

Schultz said the idea is not just to give people money, but to work with local businesses and organizations to help seniors in need.

“These people have worked their whole lives or served their country and now it has become a challenge for them to choose between food and prescription drugs,” she said

Help for these seniors could involve talking with a local pharmacy or grocery store to help pay for medicine or food. Help from SOAR could also mean connecting seniors with organizations that can help them out.

This year SOAR volunteers plan to concentrate on four areas — transportation, medication, home support and food.

For instance, if a person needs to have a ramp put in their house, SOAR volunteers would try to get in touch with a contractor who could do the work.

Schultz currently works with the Frederick Memorial Hospital’s Home Health Service and has been involved with seniors for 20 years in various capacities. She said has become aware that there is a certain segment of the senior community that cannot afford basic needs.

“I’ve had an affinity for seniors my entire life,” she said. “When I was young my grandmother took me to nursing homes to visit friends or people that did not have family. I’ve always loved older people.”

She said one reason she is doing it is to honor her grandmother, who died penniless in a nursing home.

Schultz founded SOAR in September of 2013 and has had two fundraisers. With the funds raised the first year, she gave $5,000 to the Friends of the Meals on Wheels. In 2014, the group raised $20,000 and the group is just now starting to accept applications for assistance.

In order to qualify for aid from SOAR, a person must be 55 or older and live in Frederick County. An individual cannot earn more than $2,100 a month or a couple more than $2,500.

Everything will be kept confidential. Arrangements can be done over the phone or through the Internet. A family member or friend can ask for help for a senior.

“Seniors don’t like to ask for help,” Schultz said. “They are very prideful. We want to make this dignified.”

There is no charge for the service. All SOAR members donate their time.

SOAR plans to hold a kickoff event on Feb. 25 at the FMH Crestwood Conference Center to meet with organizations and businesses in the community that serve seniors

Schultz said that Whitesell Pharmacy in Frederick has already agreed to partner with SOAR.

According to Schultz, Frederick County’s population of people over the age of 60 grew by 47 percent from 2000 to 2010. By 2030 it is expected to more than double to about 77,000 people.

“Frederick is unique,” she said. “Seniors in other counties might move to Florida. In Frederick they won’t want to move.”