06/06/12 9:00am

The Senior Citizens Affairs Council (SCAC) has designated June “File of Life” month.

The File of Life is a magnetized slipcase that contains an abbreviated medical history and a list of current medications — information that is vital to EMS personnel in the event of a 911 call or to emergency room staff should you be driven directly to the hospital. The program is sponsored by SCAC and has the approval of both the Shelter Island Police Department and the local Red Cross chapter.

File of Life cases are available, free of charge, at the Office of Senior Services, the medical offices of Dr. Scot Kolsin and Dr. Peter Kelt, the dental offices of Dr. Glenn Heinze and Dr. Frank Kestler, the Shelter Island Public Library and the Shelter Island Heights Pharmacy.

The File of Life is not just for seniors. In every home where a family member is at risk with a serious medical condition, the information in the file can save precious minutes during a 911 call.

The goal this June is to reach out to Island families who may not be aware of the life-saving potential of the File of Life and to ensure that wherever it is displayed, the medical information is correct.

The Senior Citizens Foundation of Shelter Island, Inc. has funded the 2012 re-supply of the File of Life materials.

04/24/12 10:00am

Island residents age 55 and older comprise a significant proportion of our population. The following “overview” contains a listing of those organizations and programs that provide specific services for seniors.

Senior Citizens Affairs Council (SCAC)

The Council was organized in 1986 as an arm of the Shelter Island Town Board. Its mission is to coordinate and monitor all senior programs supported in whole or in part by the town, chief of which is:

The Office Of Senior Services (OSS) 

This office provides the following:

• Telephone Reassurance Program. Volunteers call home-bound seniors seven days a week and check on participants who do not answer the phone.

• On- and off-Island Transportation. Volunteers transport seniors to medical appointments.

They also provide a once-a-week local trip for shopping, banking and U.S. Post Office services.

• Home Caregivers Course. Provides local residents with the training to care for an elderly loved one at home.

In addition, the OSS hosts the AARP Defensive Driving Course twice a year and maintains an early-warning hotline in anticipation of a weather-related emergency.

Henrietta Roberts is the coordinator of the Office of Senior Services. Dana Hallman is the administrative assistant. They can be reached at 749-1059, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Ron Lucas is the chairman of the Senior Citizens Affairs Council. He can be contacted through the Office of Senior Services.

Christine Lewis is the Town Board liaison to  SCAC. She can be reached by calling Town Hall 749-0291.

Senior Citizens Foundation of Shelter Island, Inc.

The foundation was organized in 1999 as a private, non-profit entity. Its mission is to provide additional funding for existing senior programs endangered by shortfalls in county and state Office for the Aging funding, special financial assistance to local seniors in need and to projects approved by the foundation’s Board of Directors.

In 2011, for example, the foundation gave the Town of Shelter Island $8,000 towards the purchase of the kitchen equipment needed to bring the Senior Activity Center kitchen in compliance with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services’ code.

In early 2012, the foundation provided financial assistance to three Island seniors who were having difficulty paying their fuel bills.

The foundation raises money through its annual appeal to the Shelter Island community. All donations are tax deductible. Currently there is an eight-member Board of Directors of which Seymour Weissman is the president. He too can be reached through the Office of Senior Services at 749-1059.

Senior Home Repair Program

Funding for this program is provided in part by the Town of Shelter Island, the Suffolk County Office for the Aging and the New York State Office for the Aging.

It is open to Shelter Island residents age 60 and over, providing help with non-emergency repairs such as replacing light bulbs or repairing broken windows or screens.

Labor is free. Participants only pay for materials. To schedule an appointment or for more information, call Karin Bennett or Barbara Bloom, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Town Hall —749-0291.

Senior Nutrition Program

A county- and town-supported lunch program that offers congregate meals known as the Dinner Bell on Mondays and Fridays at the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church.

Volunteers deliver Meals-on-Wheels on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The program is open to Island residents, 55 or older; suggested donation is $3. Reservations are requested. Call Karin Bennett, site manager, at 749-0805 or 749-0291 for information and reservations.

Shelter Island Senior Citizens Association (SISCA)

This organization was founded in 1972. Its meetings include educational and social programs and special events. It also sponsors trips open to all Island seniors.

Annual dues are $10 per person. The Town Board continues to allocate $3,000 in its recreation budget to SISCA. These funds are used to subsidize bus trips and site rental.

The current president is Emily Hallman, who can be contacted at 749-5092.

03/15/12 9:00pm

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Donna King with with one of the Nutrition Program vans.

There were cheers and general jubilation at the Dinner Bell last Friday when Karin Bennett announced that Donna King had passed the test for a commercial driver’s license. Donna was seated at table #4 and proudly signaled “thumbs up” to the four corners of Fellowship Hall.

Donna had taken the test the day before. “It was a lot easier this time,” she said. “I was less nervous. There were two women in charge and 15 of us waiting to be tested including two men with a truck. They failed because they didn’t know how to use the air brakes.”

Having her CDL means more employment opportunities on Shelter Island. All she had been able to do before was drive the small Suffolk County Office for the Aging vans on Monday and Friday, bringing seniors who no longer have licenses in to the luncheons.

With the CDL, she’ll be able to use the town’s handicapped bus to deliver Silver Circle Club members on Wednesdays and to drive SISCA members who will enjoy an expanded trip schedule this year.

Driving the town bus is child’s play for a woman with Donna’s background. In the 1950s she got her “over-the-road” license and first drove a one-trailer rig for Victor Express, then double and triple rigs for a company called Roadway and finally for Swift.

The long-haul trucking business was in decline and she was offered a dispatch job at Swift. But, as Donna said, “If your wheels aren’t rollin’, you’re not makin’ money.” Both she and her second husband Wayne, also a driver, retired from Swift in 2009 and came to Shelter Island in 2010. Wayne is the son of Loretta and Vincent King, whose family is well-known  here.

“Shelter Island is my home now,” said this woman born on a farm in Hobart, Indiana. “This is Eden.”

Dinner Bell profiles and portraits by Bev Walz are an ongoing series begun in 2005. — M.B.

03/15/12 4:00pm

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO | Home care-giving course graduates at the Senior Activity Center, from the left: Tony Montalvo, Alex Binder, Instructor Lois Charls, Emma Goodale and Rudy Kehoe.

The annual Home Care course has been sponsored by the Senior Citizens Affairs Council for almost 20 years and is considered by many to be the one program unique to Shelter Island among all the programs offered by the Office of Senior Services.

This year the scheduling of the program, which is free to Island residents, was in jeopardy; there were too few prospective students and the likelihood of its being cancelled loomed large at the beginning of  March.

Mary “Rudy” Kehoe saw the poster advertising the course on the Senior Bulletin Board at IGA and signed  up, thus ensuring the course would run.

Lois Charls, R.N. has been the instructor since 2001. She describes the course content as meeting the Suffolk County Office for the Aging instructional guidelines for a Level 1 home care-giver course.

The care-giver’s duties may include light housekeeping, preparing meals, changing bed linens, escorting the elderly loved one (or client) to appointments and community events and providing companionship. The focus, in sum, is on caring for an elderly relative at home.

Lois’s credentials as course instructor are impressive. She was an OR nurse for 40 years at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital in Patchogue and, on retiring, joined the Dominican Sisters in Greenport, serving as one of their visiting nurses on Shelter Island and elsewhere on the East End.

Rudy Kehoe, who was one of the four graduates last Friday night, said in a phone interview, “The course was informative, fun and free.” Her mother is 91 and she anticipates being a primary home care-giver in the years to come.

Special thanks to Tony Montalvo and Alex Binder, two other graduates, for their positive comments on the Home Care course. Space limitations this week make it impossible to include their remarks.