Name: Kathleen Kirwan-Haynie
Title: Executive Director
Organization: Senior Link Midland
How did you become interested in this work?
Until a few years ago I have always worked with disadvantaged student populations. Several years back I found myself in unchartered territory and I started looking around to see what was out there. I was working 40 minutes away and just knew I needed a supportive, loving environment to work in. I was challenged as I was working full time, being a wife and raising three school-aged children and trying to keep everyone cared for as my mother was in late stage Alzheimer’s, my special needs brother was in renal failure and my elderly father was getting more and more frail. Every day was a crisis and the one program our loved ones could qualify for was Meals On Wheels. Even though there was so much turmoil and feelings of helplessness I could go to work and get the kids to school and have some peace of mind that my family was eating a nutritious meal and know wonderful volunteers were checking in to make sure things were ok until I could get by there later in the day. This program helped me get through some very dark days and led me to the most amazing, caring people I have ever known. I wanted to get behind a mission that fostered independence and dignity, not just for the senior ,but for the entire family unit and this is exactly what I found at Senior Link Midland.
What drives your passion?
I find my passion in leaving others better off than how we found them. I believe in making sure our clients and their families are educated in knowing what their resources in the community are and how they can access assistance. If we can’t help someone through our agency I want to be able to connect people to someone who can help them. My passion is to link people to resources so nobody falls through the cracks, nobody is left behind and nobody is forgotten. To achieve this we must partner with other business, agencies, non-profits throughout our communities. We can’t see each other as competition but as partners for the good of our citizens who need us.
The mission of Senior Link Midland (SLM) is to address challenges related to aging and develop efficient, flexible and compassionate ways to meet the needs of our community. Programs and services are designed and implemented to address identified needs in the community. In coordination and collaboration with other program providers, SLM delivers unduplicated services to address such needs as hunger and malnutrition, loneliness and social isolation, home safety and security, aging information and education.
Does your organization offer any programs other than home meal delivery? If so, what are they?
SLM Homebound Services include the Meals On Wheels, Telephone Reassurance, Handyman and One Day at a Time programs. SLM also provides congregate meals at Casa de Amigos, Midland Senior Center and Southeast Senior Center. (The latter two are also managed by SLM.)
SLM is one of two agencies In the state hosting all three Senior Corps programs. RSVP matches over 600 seniors 55 and older to volunteer needs throughout the community at over SO nonprofit and agency sites. Foster Grandparents, limited income seniors ages 55 and older, work with at-risk children grades pre-K through high school at local campuses and youth-serving agencies. Senior Companions, also low income seniors ages 55+, provide in-home respite care as well as other services to homebound elders and their caregivers. The latter two programs provide a modest non-taxable stipend, annual physical, monthly training, recognition events and mileage reimbursement.
What’s the biggest challenge in your work?
The biggest challenge for us is always recruiting new volunteers. Our Meals On Wheels kitchen has a small staff which oversees the kitchen but we also depend on 6-8 volunteers. Our deliveries for 38 routes to about 500 clients each week day is all volunteer based.
What’s the best advice that you have ever received?
The best advice I received came from my mom many years ago-“Don’t sweat the small stuff.” She was so right. As long as our clients are receiving quality meals each day and their needs are being met and we remember to be kind and courteous along the way we are doing a good job.
Was there a client, volunteer, or poignant moment in your work that has had a great impact on you?
It seems like just about every day I have something at work where I think to myself “I get to do this for my job!” The most recent honor that comes to mind was our recent hurricane relief effort. We put a call to action out to our community and the donations rolled in for our fellow Texans. We were able to partner with our local food bank to stuff a truck full of canned food and cases of water and our staff and over twenty of our RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) loaded up and delivered to the food bank to send down to the coast. We stuffed another truck full of tools, tents, sleeping bags, clothes, and supplies for seniors down to the Houston area. Another carload of supplies specifically for seniors, adult diapers, denture supplies, ensures, soups, puddings, etc, went with our local chamber of commerce representative to a group of seniors who were displaced in Orange, Texas and we were able to work with Meals On Wheels Texas to carefully place $4500 in donated funds to assist Orange County Texas with their transportation challenge due to the hurricane. It was truly an amazing feeling to be a small part of something even bigger than our little corner in Midland where we get to do so much every day for seniors. Our continued thoughts and prayers to our friends who still are recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. Kuddos to you and your teams for your strong fortitude and love for the elderly. Thank you so much for your service!