All good things must come to an end, and for agencies like Healthy Peninsula, grants are one of those good things. On October 11 the Halcyon Grange in Blue Hill was dressed in autumn regalia to celebrate the successful conclusion of our four-year, $340,000 Thriving in Place Downeast Planning and Implementation grant, generously funded by the Maine Health Access Foundation. Built upon Healthy Peninsula’s cornerstone philosophy that deep community work cannot be successful without harnessing the power and resources of multiple committed partners, over $210,000.00 was distributed directly out to local and regional social service, volunteer, and community organization partners to support new, creative efforts focused on keeping seniors, caregivers and people living with chronic illness in their homes and communities as long as possible.
Over the course of four years, enriched relationships have grown among service providers who now say they have a much better understanding of the available resources and programs that are in place, as well as a better understanding of the various local communities in our 9-town region. At last count almost 1000 community members have participated in new TiPD programs, projects and volunteer opportunities. Programs like Tai Chi for Health; A Matter of Balance; free monthly “Clinics of Expertise” for Medicare education, behavioral health support and financial counseling; support groups; and a volunteer program supporting isolated seniors at the time of a hospital discharge. And all of this work has been documented and publicized widely by our media partner and local, hometown newspaper publisher, the Penobscot Bay Press.
Healthy Peninsula and the Thriving in Place Downeast Partners have been cited by the Maine Health Access Foundation as pioneers in their Thriving in Place grant initiative, forming innovative, cross-sector partnerships to increase community awareness of resources, improve engagement of organizational partners, and develop sustainable, efficient programming to improve the lives of our aging populations.
While the objective of the 10+ TiPD partners was to increase their outreach to support seniors, the chronically ill, and caregivers, Healthy Peninsula’s Healthy Aging Coordinator, Anne Schroth led the complex charge of coordinating oversight to the entire project, providing leadership, technical assistance, and program support to each of the partners. She also was responsible for collecting data, submitting reports and designing the project evaluation. This role was greatly appreciated by the partners who showed their appreciation with a standing ovation at the Celebration gathering on October 11th.
There is no doubt that this concentrated focus on seniors, chronically ill and caregivers has made a positive impact in our communities. MeHAF’s flexible, supportive grant management allowed for creative experimentation that let the TiPD partners really dig into the challenges and design inventive, collaborative solutions. With continuing work to be done for our communities in this era of shrinking resources, it is hard to see this wonderful initiative come to an end. Luckily, the great news is that, from all of the work and the collective concern and commitment of the partners, new opportunities begin where TiPD ends!
We are currently in the process of shifting the collaborative energy of TiPD to the complementary Age-Friendly Coastal Communities (AFCC) initiative, a nationwide movement coordinated by AARP and the World Health Organization. This new framework will capitalize on the existing trust and spirit of community cooperation, while growing our collaborative group to include town governments, chambers of commerce, local businesses, and emergency responders. As part of the AFCC initiative, the Select Boards of each town of our 9-town region have already made the commitment to participate in a discovery and planning process designed to improve the “age-friendliness” of their towns for all community members. Simultaneously, the existing TiPD partners have endorsed the transition of our TiP project to the AFCC framework.