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Seniors' safety is focus of national volunteer network


SOME HOWARD County seniors are part of a network of volunteers working with law-enforcement agencies in a nationwide effort to improve the delivery of police and emergency services to older Americans.

The network, called Triad, consists of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the International Association of Police Chiefs and the National Sheriffs Association.

Each organization addresses issues of concern to older people -- the fastest-growing segment of our population.

Triad's initiative is powered by local networks called Seniors and Lawmen Together, or SALT councils, which tailor the work of the larger body to meet the needs of each community.

The councils meet monthly at senior centers to explain what SALT does and hear residents' concerns.

Hank Dagenais, 67, of Long Reach, is vice chairman of the Howard County SALT council.

A retired Army colonel with a chest full of medals and a locker full of stories, Dagenais brings his well-honed leadership skills to community issues.

His goal: to maintain the quality of life his family has enjoyed in east Columbia. In spite of far-flung military postings and overseas tours, the Dagenais family has kept the same house in Long Reach for 22 years.

Dagenais speaks optimistically about his current mission. "As the SALT council becomes better known in the county, I am pleased to find the level of citizen involvement is increasing," he said.

Rudy Baker of Jeffers Hill, vice chairman of the Columbia Association's Senior Advisory Committee, enthusiastically recalls a presentation to the committee last month by Dagenais and Mary Ellen Cooper, president of the Howard County chapter of the AARP.

"We learned a lot," Baker said. "This is an area that we will become more active in because it relates to the seniors' safety and well-being."

Dagenais and his colleagues often set up tables inside Wal-Mart and Target stores on senior discount days to reach people who don't visit senior centers.

The stores have welcomed their efforts. Target helps underwrite the cost of the "911 Light" and the "Vial of Life" -- two safety devices the SALT council provides free to seniors.

The 911 Light screws into an outside socket or inside window lamp. Flicking the switch twice makes the bulb blink repeatedly, alerting neighbors to trouble and directing rescuers to the house.

The Vial of Life is a small metal tube that holds medical data. A sticker on the jamb of the front door notifies medical personnel that there is a Vial of Life in the home.

Police and emergency technicians are trained to look for the sticker when they respond to calls. The vial allows them to find critical information quickly by going directly to the freezer, where the homeowner is instructed to store the tube.

Triad is also helping protect older citizens from door-to-door sales schemes by holding educational workshops for senior care-providers. The network seeks to alert family members and service agencies to clues that an elderly person may be reluctant to report incidents out of fear or embarrassment.

The watchdog group also works with authorities to stop telephone schemes.

At 11: 30 a.m. Thursday, Dagenais and members of the SALT council will visit East Columbia Senior Center, which is in the east Columbia library, 6600 Cradlerock Way.

They will talk about their current projects and offer 911 Lights and Vials of Life.

Information: 410-313-7680.

Drivers needed

While you are in the neighborhood, stop by the Owen Brown community center.

The Community Association is looking for volunteer drivers to take senior citizens to or from doctor appointments.

Drives are local and usually require only about 90 minutes of a volunteer's time.

Information: 410-381-0202.

Purim carnival

Warm up your "graggers" (noisemakers) and put on your masks for Howard County's seventh Community Purim Carnival.

Games, prizes, refreshments, crafts and entertainment are planned from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at Long Reach High School, 6101 Old Dobbin Road.

Purim is a festive Jewish holiday, celebrating a miraculous escape from genocide in fourth-century Persia. Costumes, parties, gifts of food and retelling of the story are traditional.

Children can dress as their favorite Purim characters in a "Parade of Costumes" at the carnival: Queen Esther, whose courage saved the Jewish people, her uncle Mordecai, and Haman, the king's evil adviser who plotted against them.

The Community Purim Carnival benefits the educational grants program of the Jewish Federation of Howard County, which supplies scholarships to local families. Six Jewish Howard County schools are co-sponsoring the program.

Information: 410-730-4976, Ext. 21.

Be a candidate

Village elections are coming up in April, and Kings Contrivance is looking for a few good candidates to fill two seats on the village's board of directors and a seat on the Columbia Council.

If you are interested in the grass-roots political process, are 18 or older and a resident of Macgills Common (including Macgills North), Huntington (including Huntington East) or Dickinson, this could be just the ticket.

Board members serve a two-year term representing some 11,000 village residents.

Nomination petitions with job descriptions are available at Amherst House. Pick one up and ask 10 of your neighbors to sign it. It's that simple.

Completed petitions must be returned to Amherst House no later than 1 p.m. March 21.

Information: 410-381-9600.

Pub Date: 2/23/99

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