Waiting For The Call

Homebound seniors connect to outside world through police program

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Every morning between 9 and 10 a.m., 89-year-old Gerald M. Stork Sr. waits for his phone to ring.

Stork, who lives alone with his two dogs, receives a daily call from volunteers who check up on how he is doing.

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Janet Brown, left, and Doris Engler volunteer with the Payson Police Department.

"These good people call me every morning and I can almost set my clock by them," Stork said. "They make you feel so secure."

More than 30 senior citizens have signed up for Police Access To Homebound, or P.A.T.H. The program, which began in 2001, reaches out to elderly citizens in Payson who are homebound, living alone or recently released from the hospital, said Doris Engler, a member of the Payson Police Department Volunteers in Action.

"We call them, say good morning and ask how they are doing," said Engler, who has been making phone calls since P.A.T.H. started.

The Payson Police Department and Fire Department also administer the Guardian Angel Program. Seniors are given a electronic pendant that is connected to the phone system. If a senior falls or is unable to reach the phone in case of an emergency, he or she simply pushes a button, which automatically calls four emergency contacts. For more information about this program, call (928) 474-5242 ext. 209 or ext. 300.

Seniors receive calls during designated time blocks between 8 and 10:30 a.m, said volunteer Janet Brown.

If a person does not answer after several attempts, volunteers dial emergency contact numbers such as those of family members who might know the person's whereabouts. If the person still cannot be reached, the police are sent to his or her home to make sure the person is safe, Brown said.

"Sometimes we're the only people they talk to and we really enjoy talking with them," Brown said. "They're fun and interesting. You get involved in their lives. You care about them. You worry about them."

Juanita Packer, who is 75 and has a dog for company, said she signed up for P.A.T.H. at the police station after learning about it from a neighbor.

"I had found out I had two different types of cancer and it makes me feel a lot better that they call and check up on my every day," Packer said. "They've been awfully nice to me."

When she missed a call while talking to a neighbor outside, volunteers notified her grandson.

"Time had gotten away from me," Packer said. "They called my grandson and he came over to check on me."

Those in the program must contact volunteers if they know they are not going to be home during their specific calling time, Brown said.

"A lot of times they forget to call," Brown said. "Usually if they don't answer you can track them down. You don't want to panic."

Stork, who has been in the program for several years and is learning to walk with a cane, said he forgot to call one morning.

"I went shopping with my daughter and when I got home, the sheriff was in the backyard waiting for me," Stork said. "To put it in a nutshell, I can't thank my lucky stars enough that these people are with me here."

Margaret (last name omitted to protect privacy) said she joined P.A.T.H. in 2002 when her husband passed away.

"I'm able to get around, but anything could happen," Margaret said. "It's a lot of comfort when you're living alone, even if you are mobile."

Volunteers do not make calls on weekends or holidays, but are hoping to do so in the future, Brown said.

Pamphlets with information about the program and a sign-up form are available at various local doctor's offices, the Payson Senior Center and the Payson Police Department.

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