Good to Know: Independence is the Best Gift of All

November 29th, 2009 by Kim Lenz


The one thing I always hear when speaking to my older relatives is that they hope they’ll be able to stay in their homes until they pass on.

The last thing most of us want is to move into an assisted living facility, and this is exactly what local nonprofit Faith in Action (WFIA) aims to help folks with – staying in their own homes for as long as possible.

Williamsburg FIA started a few years ago as mainly a coalition of church volunteers with the goal of helping elderly, chronically ill and disabled adults maintain their independence by helping them with everyday activities.  Since then, the organization has grown to include volunteers outside the faith community.

According to Executive Director Rita Smith, the organization has about 280 volunteers who help with various daily activities from getting folks to the doctor, library, church or beauty salon to helping out with basic yard work and light household duties.

The volunteers are more than just chauffeurs and helpers though, Smith says. If a volunteer takes an elderly resident to a doctor’s appointment, they’ll sit in the waiting room and wait, and keep their charge company. They offer respite care for primary caregivers and are also available for plain old company for folks who otherwise are lonely and would like someone to spend time with them.

“Many people who move here [to the Triangle] don’t have family nearby,” Smith says. “They don’t have people to help them when they need it.”

WFIA has no specific criteria for who they help, just as long as those requesting assistance are over 55; a resident of Williamsburg, James City County or Upper York County; and they are disabled or can’t get out and about on their own.

Since 2002, the organization has helped 1,028 folks in the area. This year alone they’ve helped 466 so far.

Funding comes from various churches and also grants from groups like the Williamsburg Community Health Foundation, James City County, the United Way, and other local civic groups.

WFIA serves an important purpose, says Smith, and everyone will come to a point in their lives where they’ll need help. “When it comes to aging, there is no discrimination,” she says. “Income, race – everyone is affected.”

Smith says she gets letters and cards all the time from people who are so grateful for the extra help. They want to stay in their homes as long as they can, and getting a helping hand helps them do this, she says.

According to the 2003 Historic Triangle Community Assessment Report, people 65 and older make up the fastest growing part of the Triangle population. In order to help keep these folks independent as long as possible, WFIA needs volunteers (and donations) to continue helping the increasing numbers of seniors needing assistance.

Visit their Web site or call 258-5890 for more information or to see how you can help.

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2 Responses to Good to Know: Independence is the Best Gift of All

  1. Anonymous

    November 29, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    I don’t think that the statement “the last thing any of us wants is to live in an assisted living facility” is accurate or fair. Quite frankly, there are several lovely retirement communities that offer continuing care in Williamsburg. These are micro-communities and offer a sense of independence to the residents as well as piece of mind for families. This is not to say that Faith In Action does not offer a valuable service, but shouldn’t we be a bit more careful in the way things are phrased?

  2. Anonymous

    November 30, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I agree – in fact, I wouldn’t mind being in one if I were alone and not able to be very independent. Many give you independence, transportation, etc. But FIA does a wonderful service.

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