I had the good pleasure of attending Madison NonProfit Day this past October 31st. An event I highly recommend. I am grateful to Alnisa Allgood for her work in getting this day and the Social Good Accelerator program going. Both have given a community to those of us in the trenches of this often lonely work. The culture of the Madison NonProfit Day and the Social Good Accelerator program is one of learning together and encouraging each other. It is nothing short of encouraging and amazing. Both have been immensely helpful to me and many others. So thank you to Alnisa and everyone who supports her work. It makes a difference.
This year, one of the sessions I attended at Madison NonProfit Day was taught by Sharon Lezberg From the UW Madison Division of Extension, Dane County. Our challenge was to communicate why we are doing what we are do. Not “What” (Building an intergenerational neighborhood that empowers young and old to help each other flourish). Not “How” (Starting without the needed resources and engaging an amazing community of support to move forward). But “Why” are we doing this at all? This is harder to share, because in many cases, including mine, it is personal. Yet, it is important to share why, because many people, share a similar story. The story behind my passion includes childhood neglect and experience with painful loneliness–feeling invisible and not knowing where to go for help. And not wanting others to have to live like that.
The hard part of my story also included childhood years of verbal abuse. Anxiety, sleepless nights, depression and suicidal thoughts were frequent companions starting at age 9 and they followed me into teen years. Precipitating factors included the deaths of the two people I felt closest to by the time I was 8. In the time immediately after these deaths, I lived in a neighborhood that was very engaged and also taught and modeled the importance of being there for neighbors. In this neighborhood safety net, I felt loved and cared for by many and I did well in school and slept at night. But when we moved away, I stopped sleeping and learning. During this time I gained what I will call the “super power” of identifying other children who were having a hard time at home. As a teenager, my super power was expanded to seeing these same signs of pain in older adults–some of these adults were the very people that had helped me as a child and were now being made to feel invisible in long term care settings and occasionally in their private homes. Neglect, verbal abuse and sometimes threats were common threads. My conclusion early on was that this should not be and I aimed to find a solution. The results of anxiety/depression are multifocal. Lost human potential. Increased mental and physical health problems. Both children and adults with heightened sympathetic nervous system responses (fight and flight) have a greater likelihood of behavior problems, poor decision making, addiction issues, impulsive and dangerous behavior and giving up on positive goals. If you are interested in learning more here is a link to a great article on the effects of anxiety depression:
The Effects of Eepression and Anxiety on the Body, from the Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, Volume 17, Issue 1, January 2002, Pages 57-67
As an adult, a day came when I realized that I also knew from experience that there is a solution–a social solution that offers hope, meaningful relationships, encouragement and love.
We named our solution’s model the TIIN (Therapeutic Interactive Intergenerational Neighborhood). In our model, the therapy comes from intentional intergenerational neighbors. People moving into the neighborhood will agree to a commitment to be part of an organized neighborhood volunteer support system. Each household giving 6 hours of time weekly through a neighborhood time bank–as long as they are physically able. Families and older adults can also request help through the time bank. All neighbors know they will have a support system when needed! They will also enjoy the anticipation of getting to know, work and play with their neighbors. Meaningful relationships are an expected result. Genuine purpose and belonging take the place of loneliness and hopelessness. People of varying backgrounds and income levels come together as a diverse people group that is united by a commitment to care for and about each other. All age groups are invited to enjoy loving and encouraging each other. In theory it seemed relatively easy. In the world of regulation, it has been a 20+ year challenge! But we finally have a replicable model.
Here is an example of how our diverse community works. Over the last year and a half, we have had 4 loved household members pass away. For one staff person, dealing with death had been new and hard. On November 2nd when I returned to Hope & A Future, I was greeted by a beautiful Day of the Dead alter with beautiful pictures of these 4 people. Claudia had set this up. She explained that the table was to honor them and the items on the table included remembrances and some of their favorite foods. All of the staff looked at the beautifully prepared table and ate the special bread she had prepared. We remembered these people with tears and laughter. As it turned out, on that very same day a loved household dog–Maeda passed away too. A paw print was added to the table and there were more tears. We all felt this tradition from Claudia’s life had helped us. And by the next day we were making plans for next year–to invite families of those who have lived their last days with us–to have a meal made of favorite foods and spending time sharing stories. This was an uplifting experience–a time to laugh and a time to cry. We are all grateful to include this tradition in our lives.
But back to the original question–why are we building a TIIN? There are a few answers. First, we are intentionally bringing the beautiful synergy between the needs and strengths of young and old into neighborhood life to create a vibrant welcoming community where 1) no one feels invisible and 2) equity building becomes intergenerational fun. And thirdly, the TIIN is designed to build human potential and combat loneliness throughout the lifespan. A big part of how the TIIN works is giving everyone the opportunity to help someone. Mr. Rogers once said that in response to scary news his Mother told him to “look for the helpers and you will feel better.” My grandmother told me that if you feel sad, find someone to help and you will feel better. When we help, we feel better about ourselves. So, the fourth why is that in the TIIN, all are given the opportunity to be both helped and helpful–so everyone can feel better.
We hope you will consider helping us move forward!
At Hope & A Future, we are moving forward with a Capital Campaign that will build the first complete TIIN. 20 years ago, our home was the pilot of caring for older adults in licensed Adult Family Homes in Wisconsin. There are now over 1000 of them around the state. Thousands have been served and are reporting a higher quality of life. Imagine the Impact if 20 years from now there are over 1000 TIINs around the state and country. This could change the face of long term care and our model also offers affordable day care for young and old. Research is being planned for. If a positive impact is found, research can help open the door to more formalized funding systems. We are so thankful for all of the help and support we have had to get where we are! We now have approval of needed zoning and conditional use permits. And our team is working on the building permit process. Our capital campaign goal of $4 Million will help us build the first TIIN. We have been told that after raising the first $500,00.00, larger donors will look more seriously at getting involved. Our goal is to raise $500,000.00 by the end of the year. Donations and pledges are now approaching $450,000.00 and we are excited! We hope you will consider helping us make our year end goal!
Tax deductible donations can be made on the Get Involved page on our website www.hopeandafutureinc.org or mailed to 1115 South High Point Road, Madison WI, 53719.
If you would like to consider making a pledge or naming rights, please contact us at [email protected] or call us at 608-831-0243.
By this all will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:35 NKJV