Gary Galloway has made helping seniors his full-time job, even though he’s technically retired.
He’s worked with seniors in various capacities for 33 years and has been involved with Friends of Gwinnett Seniors since 2000, the year after its formation. It’s safe to say he truly cares about serving the older adults in Gwinnett.
“Friends of Gwinnett Seniors is not a direct service provider but has been a financial resource and program facilitator for the past 23 years,” Gary said. “During this time, Friends – which is entirely volunteer-governed – has disbursed $1.5 million to sustainable programs that address needs of Gwinnett seniors.”
Choosing what needs to meet and what partnerships to invest in is no easy task, especially in Gwinnett where both the needs and helpers are many.
“Around 15 years ago, we realized that certain services – like paying for senior emergencies, sponsoring meals for homebound seniors and covering the cost of affordable medical transportation – did not deal directly with the total efforts to keep Gwinnett seniors living independently in their own homes,” Gary said.
Something that does help seniors age in place? Home repairs and modifications. That’s why Friends got involved with Home Repairs – to provide this assistance to Gwinnett seniors.
“An initial band of 12 volunteers, from faith-based partners skilled in home repair trades, were recruited to provide the labor for simple repairs with Friends providing the materials,” Gary said. “Some of those original volunteers also worked on projects for Home Repairs Ministries. Now, by teaming up with HRM, when projects require licensed or certified technicians, we have reliable, senior-friendly resources to share with them.”
In the wake of the pandemic and its after-effects, seniors’ needs are more critical than ever before.
“The onset of the COVID pandemic caused many seniors to ignore critical repairs out of fear of getting infected with the virus. Because of this, their repair issues only got worse – and more expensive,” he said. “The economic impact of the pandemic led to materials shortages as well as increased costs. So in today’s inflationary environment, it still often takes more than one funding resource to make sure that projects are completed.”
Not only have the pandemic and general economy validated the need for such a partnership, but statistics show the need, too. Estimates say that in the last 20 years, the Gwinnett senior population (ages 60+) has more than tripled – from roughly 46,000 to around 155,000.
And experts estimate that within the next two years, the Gwinnett senior population will almost match the county’s school-age population (ages 5-19). This means the need for home modifications and repairs will only continue to grow.
That’s why partnerships – like the one between FOGS and HRM – matter: because people matter. And no one should have to choose between buying food and living in a safe home.
“Through the course of the pandemic, Friends and HRM realized that they could share costs to handle higher-value repair or modification projects, helping to ensure the projects could be completed, despite the higher cost,” Gary said.
Gary has experienced a lot in his work to serve Gwinnett seniors. And one situation he encountered serves as a laughable, yet relevant, reminder that our older neighbors can always use a little extra help.
“One widow who lived on a fixed income had a water leak in her yard between the street and her home. Master plumbers used by both HRM and Friends were digging in her yard to get to the leak and repair it,” Gary said. “And in the midst of it, she came out and asked the crew if they could transplant a row of shrubs for her!”
“Having been involved with philanthropy efforts for decades working alongside Home Repairs has been a game changer,” said Gary. “And seeing the tangible difference it makes in the lives of local seniors is satisfying and well worth the time and effort,” he added.
“From building a ramp for a safe exit from a home to offsetting the efforts of scammers to steal from seniors and from replacing an electrical panel box after an electrical fire to modifying living space for reduced fire and fall risk, together, Friends and Home Repairs are helping seniors on fixed incomes enjoy increased personal safety and well-being,” he said.