After nine months of research and working-group meetings, Mutual Mt. Airy called a public meeting Monday night to release its concrete plans for instituting a membership-based, aging-in-place network in Northwest Philadelphia to a group of about 40 people.

 

"It's really taken hold," said board member Betty Ann Workman. "People are just so enthusiastic about having someone help them."

Over the course of the two-hour meeting at Mt. Airy's Lovett Library, board chair, Peter Javsicas, and working-group representatives explained how the network will function. 

Partner organizations

Starting with presentations from local organizations My Way and Unitarian Universalist Housing Outreach (UUHO) on their work with senior citizens, the meeting quickly moved to how Mutual Mt. Airy can complement such existing services. 

Building on the results of a survey of 60-plus participants from an earlier public meeting, Mutual Mt. Airy's working-group members took turns introducing programs based on what respondents had to say.

First of the services to be offered up was a volunteer driving service, where Mutual Mt. Airy members could sign up to drive or be driven short distances at no cost. My Way offers a driving service for longer distances which costs $19.50/hr., "not practical for someone going 10 blocks," as board member Dan Ross put it. "In typical Mt. Airy fashion, we have had 24 volunteers and they have all volunteered to drive. None have asked for rides," said Ross.

Questions about liability and insurance in the case of an accident were raised, and board members responded by saying that the details had yet to be worked out. "We need to be sure that it's done in a business-like way, and that everyone's needs are met," said Javsicas.

The next measure introduced as a response to the survey was a vetted contractor's list. Joan Farnsworth, another board member, handed out survey cards and asked those present to supply the names of handymen and service providers they had used and liked, so that she and other volunteers could then check them against other lists of recommended providers, like members-only service Angie's List, before compiling them into a members-only database.

Representatives from arts, nature, environmental and social groups made brief presentations to introduce opportunities for members to join or lead activities in these areas.

How it will work

The meeting also got into the nuts and bolts of what membership with Mutual Mt. Airy will cost and what it will provide. Releasing a one-year business plan and official nonprofit by-laws, the board hashed out its structure and financial details for the group.

Membership fees will be $125 per person or $175 per household. Projected membership is between 100-300 people. Members who join by Oct. 15 will receive membership through the end of 2014 for the price of a single year. Mutual Mt. Airy's nonprofit status as of Oct. 1allows members to claim their membership fees as tax deductible.

The membership fees will go towards expenses such as Mutual Mt. Airy's membership to Village-to-Village, a national network of aging-in-place programs, office supplies, meeting spaces, and a dedicated phone line. Javsicas added that they will continue applying to grants and fundraising. 

One attendee asked about membership for people who might find $125 a barrier to entry. Others asked about the validity of making the fees more expensive per person for a single person versus for a member of a household.

"We need some of us who are going to pay more. We hope you will join us in the act of faith in responding to what we've heard here tonight about what your interests and concerns are," said Javsicas.

Another audience member offered her hopes that Mutual Mt. Airy will provide members the opportunity to "invest socially" in relationships that cross racial and economic boundaries.

Highlighting the inclusivity of the program, treasurer Mark Levner said, "Although the name is Mutual Mt. Airy, that's just because Mutual Mt. Airy, Germantown, West Oak Lane, Chestnut Hill and environs doesn't flow well."

"We have no boundaries," seconded Javsicas.