For the last 40 years, Northeast Youth and Family Services (NYFS) has been dedicated to making communities stronger. From mental health counseling, juvenile delinquency diversion programs, and youth development and senior chore programs, NYFS focuses on ways to help citizens facing challenges or needing support at any stage in life.
One of NYFS’ outreach programs is the Senior Chore program, which pairs students with seniors in the area who need help with household chores. Funding for the program is through the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging, and the seniors pay a portion of the cost.
Debbie Wells, coordinator for the Senior Chore and Volunteer programs, has been working with NYFS for 11 years. She is in charge of matching seniors with students who are looking for work. “It’s a great part-time job for students because it’s really flexible,” Wells says. “The seniors just love it; they get excited to have the help—and the company, too!”
Amelia Maijala is the marketing and communications specialist for the organization and sees encouraging outcomes from the program’s efforts in terms of blending community members together.
“There’s some really nice stories out there [where] we made the initial connection, but there are seniors and youths who have taken that relationship and developed friendships from that where they’re supporting each other not just in terms of chore help,” Maijala says.
Signey Oslund, a senior at White Bear Lake Area High School-South Campus, started looking for a job last summer as a way to make extra money. “I heard about Senior Chore from my mom because she was researching some good summer jobs for students,” Oslund says.
Through the program, the 17-year-old was matched with several seniors in White Bear Lake and knew it was a perfect fit. “I really love the elderly and helping them out, and they’re always so cute and nice and gracious about [getting the help],” Oslund says.
Each visit lasts about two hours; Oslund’s tasks involve helping with basic household chores that range from weeding the yard and dusting the house to mopping floors or cleaning windows. “Or reaching things [the seniors] can’t get to or bending over to get things they can’t get to,” she says. “Kind of a lot of odds and ends.”
The high school senior is very much an advocate for the Senior Chore program, which goes beyond just providing a paycheck. “I would totally recommend it for other people if they enjoy helping others,” Oslund says. “Because, while it’s a job, it doesn’t feel like it, and so for me to know that my work is also helping them to have better lives, it’s a win-win.”