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Giving Each Other a Hand Earns Award

March 7, 2013
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Hancock County Senior Services offers a service to the county's seniors which provides assistance with basic home repair and maintenance. Seniors pay only for the materials used for the job; labor, often the most costly portion of a project, is provided at no cost. The program is known as Seniors Helping Seniors and is the 2013 winner of the National Institute of Senior Centers' Program of Excellence Award in the category of Leadership, Civic Enhancement and Community Development.

"We're extremely proud," said E. Mark Knabenshue, executive director. "It is my understanding that we were selected from nearly 100 entries from across the country."

The program's concept is simple; seniors contact Hancock County Senior Services with a need such as replacing a kitchen or bathroom spigot; changing a light switch or reseating a commode. Staff members, in turn, contact the volunteers and assigns the job to them. Accounts are established at various building supply companies throughout the county in order for the volunteers to charge materials.

"Our volunteers are the key to the program's success," said Knabenshue. They are known as Hard Hats, and, are certified by West Virginia Northern Community College in plumbing, electrical and carpentry. "I can't thank Mike Koon and Joe Copenhaver of WVNCC enough," added Knabenshue. "I contacted Mike with a need, he put me in touch with Joe and the next thing I knew, seven men were completing the first phase of the training."

Most of the Hard Hats are retired steelworkers. "They are selfless individuals whose primary desire is to help those less fortunate." Once the job is complete, the client signs the appropriate form along with the Hard Hats and an invoice for materials is mailed by HCSS.

The program began in January. "It's to the point where I am receiving telephone calls nearly every day," said Knabenshue. "Hancock County has the second highest percentage of 90-year-olds still living independently in the state according to the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services. Plus, we have the third highest median age in the state at 45.3 years. The demand is bound to be great,"

Knabenshue will participate in a nationwide webinar on April 18. He will travel to Southbridge, Mass. in early October to attend NISC;s national conference and receive the award.

For more information about this or any other program contact Hancock County Senior Services at 304-564-3801 or 304-387-3251. The center is located at 647 Gas Valley Road adjacent to Oak Glen high and middle schools.

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