ANGELS was formed in 2004 to fill the need for coordinated transportation of seniors. Our mission was and still is to provide a wide variety of services to residents, age 60+ or 55+ if Native American, to help them live safely in their homes with independence and dignity. These services include Transportation to and from appointments, errands, and events; Chores such as yardwork, snow removal, safety device installation and basic home maintenance; Consultation to identify, assess and resolve safety and self-care issues; Homemaker including pickup and delivery of meals, prescriptions, and groceries; and Visiting through our Friendly Connections program that matches a senior with a volunteer for regular calls, visits, and wellness checks. During our 19-year history we have developed long-term relationships with many of our clients and are using targeted outreach to add new clients, particularly in the outlying areas of the county. Many of our volunteers become clients as their needs change because they know they will receive the assistance they need. While a major challenge can be providing transportation for the older adults who require regular visits for medical treatments in Aitkin, Grand Rapids, Duluth, Brainerd or even the Twin Cities, some of our volunteers are willing to be regular drivers for these trips.
In the 19 years ANGELS has been in existence, we have seen a steady increase in the need for a wider variety of services and have evolved from being a volunteer-based Transportation provider to also being a volunteer-based provider of Chores, Homemaking, Consultation, and Visiting. During interactions with our clients, we learn of additional needs and seek solutions that can be applied to those who may not even realize the need. For example, when a volunteer mentioned how difficult it was to find a client’s home, we sought and received a grant in December 2021 to purchase and install county E911 signage. So far, we have provided 20 homes with this important safety feature.
When talking to the family members of prospective clients, we ask for all types of assistance the individual might need and have learned that socialization is very important. We also ask our clients to respond to an annual survey that includes a question about additional services that would be helpful.
Our home assessment process identifies the need for home access ramps so we have an agreement with Access North to design and build ramps when requested. The Friendly Connection program that we started in 2020 has clients matched with volunteers who visit or call on a regular basis to determine unmet needs, provide socialization that isn’t always available with the continued risks of COVID, and ensure that our most vulnerable clients have frequent wellness checks. The COVID pandemic also gave us the opportunity to take advantage of new nutrition programs that our clients continue to appreciate.
The average age in Aitkin County is 56, the highest of all Minnesota counties and significantly more than the state-wide and national averages of 38. Our population of older adults is expected to stay high as young people move out for jobs and education while lakeshore owners retire and move north full time. All indicators suggest that our services will be needed far into the future so we plan to continue to provide current services and constantly look for additional ways we can serve these members of our community. We receive funding from the Older Americans III-B grant, the DHS Live Well at Home grant, various community grants, Aitkin County and township donations, business and individual donations, client donations, our Friends of the ANGELS program, and fundraisers.