Providing Access to Food: Betty’s Story and Grocery Service Experience

Providing Access to Food: Betty’s Story and Grocery Service Experience


Last year, Help At Your Door made more than 42,000 personal interactions with our clients.  While visiting the homes of the seniors we serve, we often receive snippets of their lives – growing families, memorable adventures, and celebrated milestones captured and shared in pictures and stories.  Some are inspiring, others are cautionary tales, and there are those that make us grateful for the sacrifices made on our behalf. Below is a glimpse into the life of one of our grocery clients, Betty.


Imagine a childhood without electricity or running water. 100 years ago, that was a reality for some of the clients we serve, and it was the case for Betty, a cheery 89-year old from Mississippi. She grew up picking cotton in the fields and, as the oldest of ten kids, regularly helped her mother take care of her siblings: “I called them my children, but they were really my brothers and my sisters.”

On the surface her upbringing may seem unbearable, but some of Betty’s happiest memories occurred when times were tough, and resources were limited. In particular, she remembers Christmas and how wonderful it was to have everyone together, enjoying the holiday. It was also at Christmas that Betty received her first doll, created from cotton, tree limbs, and her mother’s love, making her feel like the “luckiest person in the world” despite living in poverty.

Betty’s father passed away in 1941 when she was 37, bringing about a whirlwind of change. Her brother went to fight for our country in the war. Her mother and the rest of her siblings moved away from the family home. And it was at that time Betty went to live with her aunt in California to help take care of her niece and nephew. She sent all her earnings from nannying to her mother and the children.

While in California, Betty met her first husband. At the age of 18, she got married and moved to his home state of Minnesota. They had a son, John, and stayed together through his graduation from high school. When John left to fight in the Vietnam War (a sacrifice that ended up impacting his health later in life), Betty moved forward with her life a single woman.

Betty’s work ethic and resourcefulness enabled her to secure a job at the first Radisson Hotel, located in Minneapolis. She started at the hotel as a waitress and moved her way up to a hostess. It was there, after vowing to never be reliant on a man, that she met her second husband, Craig, a sales manager for Johnson and Johnson.

She loved Craig fiercely. Their adventures took them across the county – to New Jersey (where she learned to play golf) and then back to California, finally landing in Michigan with the plan to start an engineering business. But that did not come to fruition. The costs associated with startup ate up their nest egg and Craig fell ill and passed away.

Two months after she lost Craig, Betty’s other rock – her son—died, turning her reality upside down and making her feel like there was nothing left to live for in the world.

It was at one of the lowest points of her life that she came across a job at Cargill. Betty’s resilience landed her the job: “I may not be pretty or young, but I am a worker.”

And boy did she work! It was not until Betty reached the ripe age of 84 that she retired and was able to financially support herself – though she needed a little extra help when it came to receiving groceries.

That’s where our nonprofit steps up to ensure that she has access to food. As Betty will tell you, “I don’t know what I would do without Help At Your Door. I’m not supposed to lift heavy things.”

Every other week, John, a Help At Your Door driver, brings Betty her groceries: “He is just like my son. He makes me feel like I had a visit from him. And after dragging it [the groceries] all the way up here, he then wants to put it where it would be best for me. I think I got it pretty good.”

A hard life can be made wonderful with an optimistic outlook – and occasionally a friendly, helping hand along the way.

If you or a loved one is in need of a help with groceries like Betty, please call 651-642-1892 or Request a Service online.

Secure Rides for Seniors: Mary’s Transportation Experience

Secure Rides for Seniors: Mary’s Transportation Experience


Last year, Help At Your Door made more than 42,000 personal interactions with our clients.  While visiting the homes of the seniors we serve, we often receive snippets of their lives – growing families, memorable adventures, and celebrated milestones captured and shared in pictures and stories.  Some are inspiring, others are cautionary tales, and there are those that make us grateful for the sacrifices made on our behalf. Below is a glimpse into the life of one of our transportation clients, Mary.


As a retired, critical-care, registered nurse who spent twenty-four years working within the State of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services in the Aging and Adult Services Division, Mary knows a thing or two about the services and support that is available to seniors. In fact, she was part of the discussion of how to best help individuals age in place and assisted with the development of a repository of resources for seniors across the state known as the Senior LinkAge Line®.

Due to a recent surgery, Mary needed regular rides to her physical therapy appointments. Usually her brother would driver her, but sometimes he had prior commitments that conflicted with the appointments. Together, Mary and her brother searched for other resources. Her brother suggested, “Just call Uber,” but Mary did not feel comfortable with that option.

“I was hesitant about having someone come to my door that I did not know at all,” Mary reflected. “Reliability and safety are very difficult [to come by] in this day and age. It’s hard to trust because you just never know what you are going to get.”

She thought, “How could I solve this problem?”

Mary reached out to her old stomping grounds. “My thinking was that organizations listed in the Senior LinkAge Line® were part of a group that the State of Minnesota had become knowledgeable about and that made me feel much more secure.”

After receiving information about Help At Your Door from the assistance phone service, Mary contacted us: “They [Help At Your Door] just fit what I needed – a ride back and forth to my appointments.”

She signed up as a Help At Your Door client and her first ride was a success: “The driver helped me into the car and into the facility. He waited for me and brought me home. He was kind and professional and very congenial. And the assurance of safety, being on time, and knowing that I can get where I need to and accomplish my goals as far as physical therapy were very important to me. Truly what more can a person ask for.”

As luck would have it, her driver had previously worked for the Department of Human Services at the same time as Mary did. They knew the structure of the department and other people that worked there, making conversation easy and enjoyable.

When asked about any words of wisdom that she may have to share, Mary replied, “Spreading kindness is about the best thing that you can do – one person at a time and the people that I’ve met from Help At Your Door are very good examples of that.”

And for those considering supporting Help At Your Door, Mary had this to say, “It is a vital community activity that gives people who are in need of services an option and really the point of it is aging in place – being able to stay in their home and being able to access services for tasks that are sometimes challenging as we get older. Family isn’t always available to give a hand and this service is reliable.”

If you or a loved one is in need of a secure and reliable transportation like Mary was, please call 651-642-1892 or Request a Service online.

National Volunteer Week – A Special Thank You to Our Volunteers

National Volunteer Week – A Special Thank You to Our Volunteers

Beginning in 1974, National Volunteer Week (occurring April 15-21, 2018) is an annual opportunity to recognize the contributions of volunteers and the impact that their efforts have on communities across the country.  And there is much to celebrate in the Twin Cities, which currently ranks first among the 51 major metropolitans throughout the United States as having the highest share of its residents volunteering (37% — according to the Corporation for National and Community Service).

Over 500 volunteers find purpose in giving back to their communities through Help At Your Door. From giving rides and painting projects to shopping for groceries, Help At Your Door’s volunteers step up every day to help seniors and individuals with disabilities maintain their independence and continue living in their homes.

We at Help At Your Door realize the awesome impact that our volunteers have. With their support, we are able to make thousands of meaningful connections each year to ensure that those who have given to us are not forgotten. We are so grateful for their continued support. Simply put – we could not do what we do without their help.

During National Volunteer Week, Help At Your Door will be recognizing the work of our wonderful volunteers with a series of activities including daily prize drawings and treats at the stores and office. We will also be featuring a number of our supporters through social media via the #ivolunteer because campaign, which gives our volunteers a chance to share why they donate their time to Help At Your Door.

Are you interested in making a positive impact in your community? Volunteering at a place like Help At Your Door not only fosters a sense of community – it can also provide direct benefits to the volunteer.

Some of the benefits of volunteering include:

  1. Better health
  2. Development of new skills
  3. Staying connected to your community

Along with helping individuals who need services, donating your time strengthens communities and provides holistic growth for the volunteer. Studies come to the same conclusions: those who volunteer are happier and healthier than those who do not, and volunteering leads to friendlier communities whose members are invested in each other’s lives.

This year for National Volunteer Week, take some time to thank those around you who make a difference in peoples’ lives – and think about ways you can be inspired by their commitment to get involved in an area that is important to you. To learn more about Help At Your Door’s volunteer opportunities, visit: https://helpatyourdoor.org/volunteer/

We at Help At Your Door want to wish a special thank you to all of our volunteers who make our community so special. Your work and commitment to our mission and our clients is so appreciated.

Words of Wisdom from Minnesota Seniors

Words of Wisdom from Minnesota Seniors

Help At Your Door knows that with aging comes experience and insight. Visits to the homes of our clients give us the opportunity to hear first hand the stories, laughs, and snippets of wisdom that are acquired over the years. And we would like to share some of those memorable moments with you.

“I can live with myself.”

Jennifer has not owned a car in decades and enjoyed walking everywhere. She is in her late seventies now and slowed significantly by chronic disease. Combine that with a third-floor condo that lacks an elevator (but offers a beautiful view overlooking a park), she spends a decent amount of time by herself.

“In my fifties I realized a long-term relationship just wasn’t going to happen. So I’ve had a life filled with a few close friends, but no one special person. And that’s been its own kind of wonderful. But what’s really served me well these last years is that I love reading and listening to jazz. Those have turned out to be really good habits for someone with a lot of alone time. I can enjoy them both, right here in my living room. I’ve grown into a person I can live with—someone I actually enjoy spending time with—and for me, that’s pretty priceless.

“We know who holds the day.”

Sarah has lived in her home for 65 years—just as long as she’s been married to Ron. A lot has changed over those 65 years, most especially over the past ten years as Ron’s Alzheimer’s has progressed.

“Sometimes our ideas for the future turn out to be way off base,” she muses. “Our plan was to retire to a cabin up north. But it would’ve been impossible for me to keep Ron at home up there. Here, thanks to family, neighbors, and friends from church, I manage. My faith is my anchor. Sure, I get discouraged, but I keep things in perspective. I get up early while Ron is still asleep so I can have some devotional time for myself. I choose to remember the good times and practice gratitude for our many blessings.” She adds with the tone of voice that says, ‘listen up’: “We don’t know what the day holds, but we know who holds the day.”

“I just got so mad.”

Carol’s gentle demeanor suggests otherwise, but she credits her life to anger (plus some terrific doctors). Soon after losing her brother to cancer she was diagnosed herself. Her sisters figured Carol was “good as gone” because she “just wasn’t a fighter.” But after five bouts of cancer, a lost kidney, and a heart attack, she’s still here.

“I like getting together with friends; I can’t wait for the holidays when my whole family gathers. We need to enjoy—really enjoy—each other while we can…because you just never know. I’ve learned how precious life is—so I try to really notice the good things. I don’t say, ‘despite everything…’ I just say, ‘It’s a joy to wake up each day.’ Funny thing is, it wasn’t until I got sick that I discovered what a fighter I was. After the second cancer, I just got so mad. And on the far side of that anger, I found joy.”

New Volunteer Opportunities

New Volunteer Opportunities

Help At Your Door volunteers, Bill Driscoll and Shirley Shimota, raked leaves for some seniors in our community this fall.

We rely on our volunteers every day as we serve seniors and individuals with disabilities in our Twin Cities community.

With our expanded services, comes additional ways for our volunteers to get involved. From preparing occasional meals, to painting projects and changing light bulbs, volunteers can contribute in a variety of ways.

Here are a few new ways that Help At Your Door volunteers can get involved:

Homemaker
If you enjoy cooking or baking for others, or helping out with a few light household chores like cleaning and organization, our Homemaker Role might be a good fit for you. This volunteer opportunity will allow you to build personal relationships while fulfilling needs in the homes of clients.

Handyperson
Help out with light projects like: interior and exterior painting, hanging pictures, changing light bulbs and smoke detector batteries, and more.

Driver
Help clients who lack transportation to get back and forth safely from their appointments or errands.

Delivery Assistant
Ride with a Help At Your Door delivery person and assist with unloading and unpacking client grocery orders into their kitchens.

Any questions about Help At Your Door volunteer opportunities? Contact Carolyn Swenson, volunteer manager, at 651-209-1856.