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Fill Our Heart to be launched to sustain Living at Home program

When diners arrive for the Living at Home rib dinner Friday night, they will be asked to consider a gift beyond the cost of the meal: Fill Our Heart.

This year, 2010, marks the beginning of Baby Boomers reaching 65. And with the burgeoning aging population comes a tremendous demand for services, Living at Home administrator Susan Ramse said.

But the increased need comes at a time when nonprofits are losing grant funds. Living at Home is anticipating $2,000 less in funding this year and Ramse anticipates further cuts in the years ahead.

"We're looking for sustainability," she said of the proactive, long-term funding approach, as opposed to cutting services. "But we have an urgent need for the daily operation of the program."

The meal will serve as a kickoff for the fundraising campaign, the catchphrase a reminder of Living at Home's mission: Enlist volunteers to enable seniors to remain living in their home of choice.

Living at Home employs care coordinator Beth Waller, who interviews clients, checks homes for safety issues and trains volunteers.

Laurel Hed is a caregiver support coach, working with people caring for those with chronic illnesses or disabilities. She also leads a caregiver support group.

"Caregiver burnout is a major problem nationwide," Ramse said. "Hubbard County has a great network of senior providers, saving a drain on social services."

Respite care ranges from $18 to $22 an hour. Volunteers spend an average of three to four hours per visit, at no cost.

Living at Home also works with seniors in the early stages of memory loss.

And Ramse administrates the program that last year served 222 clients in the Park Rapids, Osage, Nevis and Akeley communities.

Volunteers logged more than 7,000 hours in 2009, 1,400 of which were spent transporting seniors.

Many seniors who remain in their homes may be unable to drive, but doctor appointments, groceries and other errands require transportation.

"There is a huge demand," Ramse said of volunteers who chauffeur seniors.

Some serve as "medical escorts," taking notes at doctor's visits and picking up a prescription. "They are the second pair of ears."

"I don't know what we'd do without you," one of the clients recently told Ramse.

She's hoping Fill Our Heart will preclude the concern.

"The need is there. The dream is there. Our vision is to continue, year after year, no matter what happens in the economy," Ramse said.

Contributions to may be made at the dinner, by mail at PO Box 465, Park Rapids, MN 56470 and online at

The barbecue rib dinner will be served from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15 at the Park Rapids American Legion.