Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Japanese Reporters Interview Our ReServist at the Carter Burden Center (pt.1)

ReServe and the AARP* Money Management Program at the Carter Burden Center for the Aging
*American Association of Retired Persons

In Japan, respect for the elderly is practically law—September 16th is “Respect For The Elderly Day,” a national holiday. We were flattered, then, when Nikkei Business Publications, Japan’s largest publisher and contents provider, sent two reporters to talk with our ReServist on assignment to the Carter Burden Center for the Aging about our mission, and his work with the AARP’s new Money Management Program.

Claire Hagga Altman (CA), Executive Director, ReServe Inc. - These gentlemen are writing a story about volunteer services and other programs for retirees. They say that the nonprofit sector in Japan is not as developed as here. And so they were interested in ReServe and we felt that the Money Management Bill Payer Program was a good example of our work. Takeru, would you like to open with a question?

Takeru Kise (TK), reporter - Why did you decide to work for ReServe?

Gerry Fisher (GF), ReServist - Well, you know, I was a retired businessman. For many years I had a corrugated box factory. And then I had an invention--a patent--and then I sold that. I sold the business, I sold the patent. And I was in limbo, not knowing what to do. And I couldn't just ‘do nothing!’ It was almost impossible for me to do nothing. My mind was constantly functioning. And so I discovered ReServe. And I applied for employment there. And luckily, I got the job.

CA Gerry, could you describe what you do with the Bill Paying Program?

GF Well, what I do here is I coordinate the program in conjunction with Velda. We get the clients. And we get the volunteers. And we get them matched up so that the volunteer goes to the client's premises. We organize their papers. And we pay their bills. But we don't sign checks. We just make out the checks. And we make sure that they have enough money to pay their bills. And make sure that they don't overpay their bills. And we make sure their bank accounts are in balance. So it's sort of like a book-keeping assignment.

CA The idea is to help them manage their resources so that they can keep living at home and essentially not become destitute.

Velda Murad (VM), Executive Director, Carter Burden Center for the Aging - We had a client who was facing eviction because she didn't pay her rent bill for months. She just forgot to pay it. But she was convinced she did. And she never responded to the landlord's letters because she said she paid the rent, so why does she have to answer to anyone? So she was taken to court. We got involved, and what we realized is she needed help. Somebody had to go in to make sure she paid her bills. So we got a volunteer to go in. And the volunteer is now making sure she pays all her bills. So this is a woman who is able to stay [in her] home because of this program. I mean it's extraordinary. Really--this is extraordinary.

CA And AARP recruits the volunteers and then sends them here and you screen them.

VM Yes.

TK How many clients do you have?

GF How many clients at the moment? Well there are four active, but there are two more coming. Four currently active. We’d like more clients. It's not as easy as you might think to find them. We've sent out mailings to 1200 people, gotten very little response. We've sent out letters to synagogues and churches . . .

VM But as you said, it's very hard for people to talk about income, and to share their financial information. It's hard to do, and it takes a tremendous amount of working with somebody. There's a period where the volunteers just have to chat with people, and visit them until they're comfortable enough to even work with them.

VM We don't have regular staff to do this. As a nonprofit, without ReServe sending in Gerry, you know, this project couldn't run. There's no way we could do it. We're understaffed as it is. We're a nonprofit, and we don't have enough staff here to begin with. And to take on another project like this that requires so much monitoring . . . Gerry contacts the volunteers every week. He's available to meet with them. They ask him questions. They email him.

GF However, I do like it here!


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