Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Working together for seniors

The Harvard Senior Center and Crystal Lake-based McHenry County Senior Care Volunteer Network recently joined forces to brainstorm ways in which both groups can better assist area senior citizens.

“We contacted Harvard because we are starting to receive more phone calls from seniors in Harvard that need our services,” said Senior Care Volunteer Network volunteer coordinator Aileen Zei. “We want to provide orientation services to people interested in volunteering in Harvard, and we also want to forge a partnership with the senior center to work together to help seniors in the area. Another hope is to provide services for seniors to get to activities at the Harvard Senior Center.”

The Senior Care Volunteer Network is a nonprofit organization that addresses the challenges some members of the growing senior citizen population may face. The group aids McHenry County residents age 60 and older who may be living on their own or reside in the homes of loved ones. The organization offers a number of volunteer services, including transportation to and from doctors appointments, the grocery store and the hair salon; minor home repairs, yard work and snow removal; and friendly visits or phone calls.

The services are free and provided by volunteers ages 25 and older.

The Harvard Senior Center offers social events for senior citizens in the Harvard area. It provides social, physical, educational and informational activities, including chair yoga, card and table games, lunches several times a week, parties, programs and important resources. The center also will implement programing this year designed to help delay the onset of chronic disease and improve quality of life related to senior citizens’ physical, social, spiritual, emotional, mental and economic well-being.

Sharon Smith is the administrator at the Harvard Senior Center, which partners with the city of Harvard to help senior citizens in the community. Smith said there are plans to expand into two satellite services in Hebron in the near future, though several other sites are possible as well.

“We are partnering with SCVN in a dual approach that will help identify both seniors in need of services and individuals who will donate their time to help provide those services,” Smith said. “[The Harvard Senior Center] will help with outreach and information about the programs, as well as serving as the focal point for the delivery of these services in Harvard and surrounding communities. SCVN will be the volunteer recruiting, training and coordination agency for the program.”

“It is a great and flexible volunteer opportunity,” Zei said of the volunteer opportunities available with her organization. “People can volunteer as little or as much as they like; we will work with their schedules. We are grateful to each and every volunteer.”

Last year, 375 people volunteered with Senior Care Volunteer Network, with 16,000 services provided to nearly 1,000 senior citizens in need.

“McHenry County has the fourth fastest-growing senior population in the state,” Zei said. “So many seniors that don’t have services to stay independent – we help them stay as independent as long as possible. Senior Center is also doing a great job keeping them social. If we can help get them there, it is a great combination. We are hoping for volunteers to help those in their community, to help people that are their neighbors.”

“Community collaboration is critical across all social service agencies, especially these days and especially in Illinois,” Smith added. “Every nonprofit organization I work with is doing much more with much less, and this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. Duplicating services diminishes the impact of individual organizations, and creating partnerships that allow us to share the resources and relationships increases the number of people being served without fragmentation and overlap.”

People interested in volunteering with the Senior Care Volunteer Network can call Zei at 815-455-3120, ext. 223, or visit

The Harvard Senior Center is seeking additional sponsors, grant funding and community assistance to help expand into several additional satellite sites. For information, call 815-943-2740 or e-mail