What do you get when you combine the needs of vulnerable senior citizens who want to stay in their homes with the needs of undereducated women struggling to find work?
The coupling of needs seemed like a no-brainer to Sue Kathman, now executive director of the non-profit agency sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy. The agency, in East Walnut Hills, was formed in 2007 by merging three smaller programs that each served disadvantaged adults, youth and seniors.
"Over 20 years ago, I was working with homeless women, and in the middle of the night I had this a-ha moment. I thought, 'They are homeless because they don’t have skills,' ’’ says Kathman, a critical care nurse by training. “And we have these vulnerable seniors who don’t need nursing, but just need someone to help them with basic needs and activities."
Kathman has worked ever since to merge adult education and workforce readiness training programs with those that teach health care skills to provide care to older adults living in inner-city neighborhoods, who may suffer from poverty, infirmity and loneliness.
A year ago, the health care training program grew exponentially when it took over the Council on Aging Learning Advantages (COALA) program that was founded and operated by Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio
“We really had not planned on growing that quickly,’’ Kathman says. “We jumped in, and we more than doubled really quickly, and we’ve been working on our processes ever since.
“As the only home health care training program in southwest Ohio, we get requests for workers from Butler, Clermont and Warren counties. And that is not slowing down anytime soon,’’ she says. “There is a huge crisis staring at us -- with the lack of supply of home care aides and an aging population that is staying in their homes longer.”
Currently, the agency trains about 190 adults - primarily women – annually to become certified home health care aides. The program, through intensive training, begins to break the cycle of poverty and unemployment.
“I have women who were once homeless and on welfare, who now own homes, drive cars and are putting their children through college,’’ she says. “They pay taxes and are consumers who contribute to this economy.”
And she says a $107,500 grant recently awarded to the agency by Impact 100
will enable Mercy Neighborhood Ministries to expand its reach outside of Hamilton County, add extra hours to their workplace training skills program and add a job retention specialist to its roster.
“I am still in awe that we won the grant,’’ she says. “This grant will truly impact and transform many lives, making Cincinnati a stronger community.”
. Whether you donate cash or prefer to give in-kind with donations of gift cards and the like, your support will make a difference at Mercy Neighborhood Ministries.
. Deliver food to a senior who needs the help and some company; tutor a GED student; help with a fundraiser. Use your skill, talent and time to further Mercy's mission.
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Chris Graves is Assistant Vice President for Digital and Social Media at the Powers Agency.