Congratulations to the staff of Neighbor Ride, in Columbia, on their award of $10,000 from Tom's of Maine in its "50 States for Good" community giving campaign. Maryland, Neighbor Ride in particular, was among the 15 states/nonprofits receiving $10,000 each for funding of grassroots community projects.

Colleen Konstanzer, Community Outreach Coordinator for Neighbor Ride, wrote in her nomination of the nonprofit, "The expansion of Neighbor Ride's volunteer program will aid in continuing to serve the growing number of seniors who rely on the Neighbor Ride transportation service to remain healthy, independent and connected to the community."

She went on to state that seniors face isolation if they don't have their own transportation or family and friends to rely on to take them places.  Volunteers provide the "wheels" seniors need to get to medical appointments shopping, and church and senior center activities.

Thanks to all the readers of Senior Circles who voted for Neighbor Ride. I know that many Howard County seniors are taking the opportunity to avail themselves of this transportation service. If you aren't, and don't have any other means of transportation, take advantage of this service. Don't isolate yourself. We all need social interaction and these 'wheels' can promote your health and well being. On the other hand, if you are an older adult who can provide this type of transportation service, please join this volunteer program and give back.  You may someday need to avail yourself of a ride.

DVC becomes HopeWorks

In the past, I have written about domestic violence against seniors, especially the services provided by the Domestic Violence Center of Howard County. As of Dec. 1, the DVC has a new name, HopeWorks Howard County, which reflects the agency's evolution towards its goal of creating lasting change, while continuing its support and advocacy for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. 

The current website states "Hope is what motivates us. The work we do together is what will bring change." Look for HopeWorks' new website coming soon.

Another positive step forward involving domestic violence in the county is the new hospital-based domestic violence program scheduled to become operational in spring 2014 at Howard County General Hospital. It will be Maryland's eighth hospital-based domestic violence screening center, the latest one resulting from Governor O'Malley's 2010 Executive Order creating the Maryland Domestic Violence Health-Care Screening Initiative.

Partnering with HopeWorks, the hospital program will involve training and screening tools for hospital staff and improved follow-up and tracking of patients. Intervening in abusive situations early in the hospital setting, will allow Hope Works staff to provide patients with options to protect themselves as well as resources within the community that they might not be aware of.

Police initiatives help seniors

Did you know that because of the growing population of senior citizens in Howard County, the Howard County Police Department has a full-time officer devoted to serving as Senior Liaison?  According to the department's website, PFC Andre Lingham is "working to increase protection for the senior population and reduce levels of fear by establishing better communication between seniors and police."

He coordinates crime prevention and training and by working with senior citizen groups, government agencies and private institutions he helps to make sure that the needs of seniors are met. Contact Officer Lingham at 410-313-6098 or alingham@howardcountymd.gov.

The police department website includes some other interesting information related to seniors. The police department, the sheriff's office and the American Association of Retired Persons have formed a three-way partnership called "Seniors and Law Enforcement Together." This TRIAD/SALT group addresses "crime issues that affect the health and safety of older citizens." Its activities include crime prevention, home security surveys, personal safety, identify theft, driving safety, an annual picnic and the Columbia 50+ Expo. For more information on TRIAD/SALT, call 410-313-2207 or go to countyofhowardmd.us/crimeprevention.htm; scroll down to Senior safety and senior liaison and then click on TRIAD brochure.

On the subject of driving safety, the police department also partners with the Howard County Office on Aging and AAA Mid-Atlantic to offer the CarFit program to seniors in Howard County. Seniors can find out how the "fit" of their vehicle affects driving. The program helps seniors adapt their vehicles to their changing needs, thereby possibly making a lifesaving difference to seniors and their loved ones.

While on the subject of safety, please be careful this holiday season when you are out and about, especially parking in large lots and shopping at malls. Be aware of your surroundings and take precautions if you see someone or something suspicious. Lock your purchases in your trunk. Try not to travel or shop alone; take a buddy with you.

Best wishes to all for a happy, healthy, peaceful and safe holiday season!