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UMaine Center on Aging Wins $1.3 Million Federal Grant for Statewide AmeriCorps Network to Serve Seniors

Contact: Media contact: Joe Carr at (207) 581-3571

ORONO — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has announced a $1.3 million federal grant to the University of Maine Center on Aging for a statewide AmeriCorps VISTA project to serve senior citizens. The grant will fund the Senior $ense program, which will recruit, train and place 30 full-time AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers in more than 15 community organizations throughout Maine.  The AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers will help develop financial, employment and consumer counseling services and resources for seniors living in poverty. 

UMaine will begin recruiting volunteers immediately to serve for one to two years to help improve the lives of Maine seniors. Volunteers serve for at least one year and will receive a monthly living allowance.  At the end of their service volunteers receive a cash award. Volunteers interested in national service can apply online at www.AmeriCorps.org.

“AmeriCorps VISTA provides valuable community services to individuals who might not otherwise have access to these services,” said Sen Collins.

“Senior $ense will help address some of the unmet needs of our low-income, elderly Mainers who are doing their best to make ends meet each month. Seniors are often our most vulnerable citizens.  We owe it to them to provide them with the tools they need to be financially independent,” Collins added. 

“This program provides a great way for Mainers of all ages to respond to the president’s call to service,” says Prof. Lenard Kaye, director of the Center on Aging. “AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers will be vital in helping us address the needs of our seniors.

“Financial difficulties can be overwhelming for older people, many of whom are dealing with a variety of other challenges at the same time,” Kaye continued. “By providing a way to deliver resources and services that are customized to different regions of the state, we aim to help Maine’s elders learn to more effectively deal with money and related issues and, in turn, reduce their risk of becoming victims of unscrupulous businesses and scam artists.”

The three-year program is funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency which funds national service programs such as the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), the Foster Grandparents Program, Senior Companions, AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps VISTA and Learn and Service America.  The 30 new VISTA volunteers who will participate in the Senior $ense program will join 163 AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers who provided a variety of services to Mainers last year. The Corporation for National and Community Service and its programs are part of the USA Freedom Corps.

Kaye notes that the program will use technology to expand its reach to all people who might benefit from it.

“The project will also entail the construction of a comprehensive interactive website where resources will be available to all older adults, their families, and the health and human services personnel who work with them,” he says.

Organizational partners, where VISTA members will be assigned, include the UMaine Cooperative Extension, Maine’s Area Agencies on Aging, many of the state’s Community Action Agencies, Penobscot Community Health Center and the Maine Jobs Council. Consultation and training support will also be available through the State Bureau of Elder and Adult Services, Elder Abuse Institute of Maine, the Senior Community Service Employment Program and AARP of Maine.

Those interested in participating as volunteers should contact the UMaine Center on Aging at 581-3444 or e-mail.

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