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Teller Senior Coalition goes the extra mile to help clients stay at home 

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click to enlarge Staff take a "person-centered" approach to care. - COURTESY OF TELLER SENIOR COALITION
  • Courtesy of Teller Senior Coalition
  • Staff take a "person-centered" approach to care.

For seniors — especially those who can't drive — mountain communities such as Victor and Cripple Creek aren't the easiest places to live.

"Seniors are really stuck up here," says Juanita Fields, 82, of Woodland Park. "You realize there's no 7-Eleven on every corner."

That's where Teller Senior Coalition comes in. The nonprofit, founded more than 20 years ago, provides donation-based transportation for seniors 60 and over, and low-income residents with disabilities. That can mean anything from a lift to the doctor or hairdresser to a ride to work.

There's no public transportation in Teller County, and rides can cover long distances, but Executive Director Lisa Reed says the coalition, based in Woodland Park, will go as far as it takes.

"Just to give an example, we will pick somebody up all the way in Victor or Cripple Creek, and take them all the way to the north Springs," Reed says. "That's about five hours in just transportation, not including the doctor's appointment time."

That can make all the difference for people like Fields, who has been counting on the coalition for years to get to the grocery store and doctor. She says she thinks of the drivers, many of whom are volunteers, as her friends.

"When my husband passed or if I faced some sort of adversity in life, they would say to me, 'Juanita, anything you need, call me,'" Fields recalls. "The Lord must place a certain kindly regard in their hearts and they hang on to it and they go with it. I just think that's such a blessing to us all. I don't know what I would do without them, I truly do not."

While Reed says transportation is often the first reason seniors contact her team, the Teller Senior Coalition also provides case management, caregiver support, handyman services, home-delivered meals and homemaker services — all tailored to individuals' needs.

The goal? Keeping seniors at home.

"Something as simple as not being able to cook a meal for yourself or get your food could cause you to have to go into long-term care," Reed says.

Last year, the Teller Senior Coalition served 650 clients, provided 7,000 rides and delivered 8,000 meals. And with 20 percent of Teller County residents already over 65, a figure expected to double by 2020, it'll take more funding and volunteers to meet the growing population's needs.

Fields says she always tries to make a donation when she gets a ride, though "not every senior can."

But she calls the nonprofit "necessary," not just for rides to the doctor, but quality of life for people living alone who have limited resources. Far-flung clients can get rides to the pool, gym or senior center as long as a driver's schedule allows.

"There's so much that they give us to do rather than us sitting at home and vegging and wasting away," Fields says. "... What a lovely area we live in that provides so much for everyone, and the coalition fits right in."

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