PHOTO BY JULIA VAN WAGENEN
Cleveland Westside Village members gather at the Cleveland script sign by the Abbey Avenue Bridge.
by Pat Murray and John Bazyk
One certainty in life is that, if we are fortunate, we all will experience old age. Important to many older adults is the ability to age in place, meaning to continue living in the house and neighborhood that has been “home” for them in the most profound sense. The Cleveland Westside Village was born from this need and serves to make it a reality.
So, when Doris, who lives alone in a westside neighborhood, could not drive herself for an upcoming eye-doctor appointment, she got on her computer and put in a request for a ride to the visit. The next day Cleveland Westside Village member Jim called her and made arrangements to transport her.
This vignette illustrates one of the prime functions of the Cleveland Westside Village, a group of seniors who have formed a mutual support group to make it more feasible to age in place. The Village began to take root back in 2013 out of a series of discussions among some friends about what we could do to make “aging in our community” easier. It has grown today into a small non-profit organization with 38 members. Since we began offering actual assistance to each other in 2018, we have provided over 120 acts of assistance to others in our group.
The idea of the village did not begin with our group, but originated in a Boston neighborhood, among people much like ourselves, almost ten years ago. The folks in Boston had given assistance to other groups and eventually they formed a national clearinghouse organization, the Village-to-Village network, that supports the creation of “villages” all across the country. Today, there are more than 200 villages like ours in the United States. The idea has even spread to other countries.
Village organizations do not all function the same. Some have hundreds of members and employ one or two staff to manage programmatic, clerical, and financial issues. Others, like ours, are small and run entirely by the volunteer members themselves. We chose this model to keep costs low in order to make it affordable for all people in our neighborhood.
Today, we operate a website that any member can access to request assistance, or they can ask for assistance by phone. People most often need transportation, but pet care, minor home repairs, and gardening are also common requests. Through these activities we have become a more cohesive group and have begun to advocate for things needed in our community such as affordable, accessible housing for middle income people. Over the years the village has received assistance from numerous other community organizations including the CSU law clinic, the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization (now part of Northwest Neighborhoods), Cleveland Public Theatre, Cogswell Hall, and Neighbor Up, which have enabled us to hold our community concerts and other social events. Our Education Committee has sponsored numerous events featuring expert speakers recruited from the community.
Many Village members have enthusiastically embraced the Village. Judith calls the Village her “failsafe” when the unexpected happens and she may not be able to manage alone. She believes “every senior needs a village”. John sees the Village as the definition of what it means to be a neighbor. He enjoys not only the events and services but the friendship he has experienced with his peers.
The Westside village welcomes as new members anyone 55 years of age and older from the Ohio City, Detroit Shoreway, Cudell, and Edgewater neighborhoods. People who would like to learn more about our organization should come to our Introduction to the Village Happy Hour at Forest City Brewery, 2135 Columbus Rd. on February 7th from 4 -7 pm. We will be serving some food. To reserve a spot at the Happy Hours or for more information or a ride to the meeting call 216-714-2814 or email email@example.com.
Leave a Reply