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Rib dinner fill plates, helps fund Living at Home programs

The sweet aroma of slow-cooked barbecue ribs filled the room as area seniors came out for the Living at Home of the Park Rapids Area rib dinner, held at the American Legion.

The rib dinner is a regular fundraiser for the local organization that offers services for seniors. Numbers were down some this year with about 230 dinners served. Connie Carmichael, executive director of Living at Home, said they normally serve around 350. The dinner was held about a month later than previous years, and that along with the weather, could have contributed some to the lower turnout.

The rib dinner and other fundraisers are critical to funding Living at Home.

"People that come to the dinner to eat are very generous and some give extra donation dollars, so that helps to fill the gap in the difference of attendees," Carmichael said.

Individual donations make up about 25 percent of the Living at Home budget and fundraising makes up about 15 percent. "So, we appreciate every dollar so very much," Carmichael explained.

Volunteers make the dinner happen as each year they have new people join the veterans in putting on a successful rib dinner. Businesses, individuals and families pitch in as volunteers from cooking to serving to refilling coffee to cleaning up after the dinner.

"Living at Home is so blessed by the people of this community," Carmichael added.

Her husband, Russ, was the rib chef this year. It takes at least four people to prep the 350 pounds of ribs a day before the event. The volunteer chefs slow bake the ribs all day Friday.

Living at Home recruits, screens and trains volunteers to help residents age 65 and over. Services are available to residents of southern Hubbard, northern Wadena and eastern Becker Counties.

The program is funded through donations, cost sharing, the State of Minnesota, Land of the Dancing Sky Area Agency on Aging, local grants and local fundraisers like the rib dinners.

Services provided to local seniors include transportation to appointments, minor handyman services, groceries and errands, friendly visits, occasional light housekeeping, ramp building and respite care.

In explaining what Living at Home does in the community, Carmichael shared the following story of a Living at Home employee who started her job and answered the phones the first week, and to understand what the person on the other end needed.

"The very first phone call was from a lady named Judy who is 82. Her first words sounded teary and she said, 'All I really want is someone to make me an egg McMuffin.'

"Turns out she needed much more than an egg McMuffin. She was the full-time, 24-hour caregiver for her husband who was 86 and ill. She was so consumed by everything she was doing to take care of him that she had completely lost herself. She was at the end of her rope and probably a little hungry, too. I immediately told her that she made the right call and we could help her. Within three days, Living at Home provided her with respite care, which allowed her four hours a week that were totally for her. She could sleep, read, cook, get her hair done or get her eyes checked. By the way, she hadn't had her eyes checked in over three years."

A social worker made an assessment and referred her to home care to get some of her husband's immediate needs take care of. She also assisted the lady in signing up for Meals on Wheels.

Living at Home provides assistance and support by enlisting volunteers and other community resources to enable seniors to remain living in the home of their choice.

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