United Way agencies
The 2012-13 United Way campaign is underway and the local chapter assists 17 agencies in Bulloch County with funding. To donate or find more information about the agencies, call (912) 489-8475.
Part of a continuing series on local United Way agencies
Diane Woodrum finds herself a member of an increasingly crowded club.
Economic woes have hit hard for the nation’s older citizens — Woodrum among them — resulting in about 9 percent of seniors living in poverty, approximately 27 percent of them alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
For Woodrum, though, a bleak situation has been made brighter, she said.
Thanks to one local organization, she is able to get by with a little help from her friends.
“If not here, I would be sitting at home with my books and just looking at four walls,” Woodrum said, sitting in a Denmark Street Senior Center. “It means a lot to me to have this place — to just get out for a few hours and be with good friends.”
The center, Woodrum’s proclaimed saving grace, is offered through Bulloch County’s Concerted Services Inc. — a nonprofit organization operating throughout southeast Georgia that aims to combat poverty.
The organization offers several programs that clothe, feed and, in various ways, assist low-income families or individuals.
Concerted Services’ primary duty is to feed more than 100 people every day of the week — most of whom are homebound — including about 30 who spend their mornings at the center.
But for Woodrum, the haven provides more than a free lunch.
“This place means a lot to me,” she said. “We are one big family here. We go to many different places, do crafts, play bingo, perform yoga and do several other activities.
“When I first came here I was shy, but this center has allowed me to become familiar with people and mingle with the crowd,” Woodrum said. “This experience brought me out of my shell a lot.”
Mary Phillips, the county coordinator for Concerted Services, said Woodrum’s case typifies that of most seniors who attend the center.
“A lot of them here are alone at home,” she said. “Just to be able to sit and talk with other people -- roughly the same age -- and share experiences or form close bonds, is great. They are a little family here. They look after one another.”
Of course, seniors do much more than just sit and chat, Phillips said.
“We have various volunteers come in and conduct several services,” she said. “People provide music, nutritional programs and demonstrate to the folks here how to better improve their lives at home.”
“We have nurses check blood sugar and blood pressure each week, we have people come in and talk about Medicare and Medicaid, and Georgia Southern volunteers come in with games and other mind-stimulating programs,” she continued. “Seniors get flu shots right here, they’re taught tips about preventing stroke or heart disease, and we’re hoping to partner with a college to have someone work with them on computers.”
Woodrum is in her seventh year attending the Concerted Services center.
“We are learning something all of the time,” she said.
In total, Concerted Services reaches about 1,700 people in the community when combining its several programs — emergency assistance to provide food, shelter or other needs; a federally funded effort to help people with energy bills; income tax preparation services; and the senior center — Phillips said.
The organization operates in 18 counties throughout Georgia.
Phillips said the Concerted Services effort in Bulloch County is made stronger with support of another nonprofit.
“The United Way is very important to us because it allows us to extend our service area in Bulloch County,” she said.
United Way, as with several organizations in Bulloch, provides funds yearly to the organization.
The United Way of Southeast Georgia is currently conducting its 2012-13 fundraising campaign, which kicked off in September.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.