"Fair Weather Friends" helps seniors during severe weather

By KBJR News 1

January 14, 2014 Updated Jan 15, 2014 at 12:17 PM CDT

Bayfield, WI (NNCNOW.com) – "Fair Weather Friends" is a new program helping to ensure the safety of senior citizens during severe weather conditions – from dangerous heat to extreme cold.

We put you in touch with the volunteers that are at the "core" of this rural lifeline.

For seniors living independently in rural settings, severe weather, like we've seen this winter, can pose extreme dangers.

“I fell last winter backwards, so I fell backwards and hit my head and luckily there was a lady looking out of her window and came and helped me get up,” the second senior to register, Barbara Spencer, said.

Barbara Spencer, who is 83-years-old, used to live in Duluth, Minn., but now lives in Bayfield, Wis. She is the second senior to register for the “Fair Weather Friends” program.

"It will help people not feel so alone," Spencer said.

The “Fair Weather Friends” program was an idea that sprung from the Red Cliff Indian reservation, and spread to the northern tip of Bayfield County. The program is offered through CORE Resources in Bayfield, Wis.

It is the first of its kind, but organizers hope that other counties around Wisconsin will adopt similar programs.

"Last summer we lost an elder in the community during very severe hot weather. So my idea was that we needed to come up with a program for our community members so that we were checking on them during winter,” Red Cliff Health Director, Patricia Deragon-Navarro, said.

Just last week in Minnesota, 83-year-old Clara Pundsack was missing for days. She was found outside miles from her home. Autopsy results show she died from hypothermia caused from the extreme cold.

"Economically seniors are sometimes at a disadvantage. They might not have reliable heating systems in their homes. They might not have reliable transportation and their families and friends might be distant and not available to check on them on a regular basis," Red Cliff Nurse Administrator, Anthony Bondioli, said.

"We may have volunteers available to drive them to medical appointments or to grocery stores. Whatever they need. The big part of this program is helping to ensure their safe in their home with friendly phone calls,” CORE Resources Executive Director, Beth Meyers, said.

Providing a vital lifeline for seniors in need. Phase three of the program is to find safe places for seniors to go in case of emergencies like power outages and storms.

CORE Resources prefers for seniors to register on their own by calling their office at (715) 779-3457, but if you are interested in learning more for a family member, the organization is happy to answer any questions you may have.

Ramona Marozas