Forest Hills residents say, “Let’s grow old together.” Local volunteers are helping elderly neighbors enjoy their homes as long as possible. The president of the Northwest Neighbors Village writes about the community organization’s services and its roots.
By Janean Mann
“Absolutely wonderful” is the way a Forest Hills resident describes just one of the many services she receives from a local neighbor-to-neighbor organization created to help individuals remain in their homes as they age. Northwest Neighbors Village (NNV), with 90 trained and vetted volunteers, provides a wide range of services to its members. But it is not just the services members enjoy — it is the friendships they make and the knowledge they glean from organizational events.
Northwest Neighbors Village was founded by a group of local residents who loved their neighborhood and wanted to remain in their own homes as long as possible. NNV opened its doors three years ago to serve the Chevy Chase, DC, neighborhood and has expanded its borders to include residents of Forest Hills, Van Ness, American University Park and Tenleytown. It is a community-based non-profit volunteer organization that helps residents of northwest DC maintain an independent life at home as long as they can safely do so. A Forest Hills member described it this way: “I am really enjoying my relationships in the Village. I have met new friends and stayed active. The help and support from the volunteers has been great. The Village connections have changed my life.”
With a dynamic and caring Executive Director, Marianna Blagburn, NNV offers its members a wide range of services, be it a trip to the doctor, computer help, handyman assistance, seminars, social events, free yoga classes and more. NNV links members seeking services with neighbors who have offered to provide them. Volunteers have donated more than 8,000 hours of service over the past three years. All of NNV’s volunteers, staff and board members are locals.
In addition, NNV identifies and vets professionals such as electricians, plumbers, home health care assistants who can assist its members for a fee, and often at a discount. It also works closely with a wide range of other organizations, such as Iona Senior Services, local hospitals and the DC Office on Aging, to help meet the needs of its members. Said another Forest Hills resident, “I find it reassuring to know there is a place I can call when I need these services, even if it is on short notice.” NNV has received grants from local organizations such as the DC Office on Aging, ANC’s 3/4 G, 3E and most recently 3F in Forest Hills to assist with outreach to Forest Hills residents.
Membership in Northwest Neighbors Village is open to any neighbor within the service boundaries who is over 50 years of age as well as younger people with disabilities. Full members pay an annual fee of $500 for an individual and $750 for a household of two or more which entitles them to an unlimited number of services and programs. For neighbors living on low to moderate incomes, the Membership Plus category was created with benefits equal to full membership for a fee of only $100 for an individual or $150 per household. Grants from several religious congregations and civic organizations help subsidize these reduced fee memberships. Associate members pay an annual fee of $250, $200 of which is tax deductible. These members may attend all social, educational and cultural events and have access to the vetted list of professionals.
Many of NNV’s events are, however, open to the general public. Non-members have recently enjoyed seminars on initiating difficult conversations within families about aging issues, and avoiding scams and combating identity theft.
NNV is an independent village, but is part of a nationwide movement of grassroots organizations created to help seniors remain at home. Many are modeled after Beacon Hill Village in Boston, which began 11 years ago. There are currently 28 villages either fully established or developing in DC and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Each reflects the characteristics of their neighborhoods, but all are working to serve the growing populations of seniors in our area. To exchange best practices and help new villages become established these villages have created the Washington Area Village Exchange (WAVE).