Sue Awes is the new director of Helping Our Neighbors, Chatfield's senior assistance program made possible through a grant obtained through the Chatfield Lutheran Church.
Sue Awes is the new director of Helping Our Neighbors, Chatfield's senior assistance program made possible through a grant obtained through the Chatfield Lutheran Church.
Sue Awes wants to be your neighbor.

"I'm easygoing and easy to get to know. I like to be with people, meet new people, I like to laugh and have a good time, and I usually get along with everybody," said Awes, the new director of Chatfield's Help Our Neighbors (HON) senior citizens' assistance program.

This organization was started this past fall through a grant of $180,000 obtained through Chatfield Lutheran Church that will allow for Chatfield's younger residents to carry out light housekeeping, repair and respite services for their senior neighbors.

Awes appreciates the value of HON's mission because she believes that intergenerational conversation is vital to humankind's health and heart.

"Prior to this, I was doing another grant opportunity as director of HeadStart," she explained. "I worked with children - my background is children, and I did full-day childcare - and my master's degree is in gerontology...I worked at Fairview in Minneapolis."

Awes also added she was executive director of ArtReach, an art opportunity for seniors.

"I guess when I was working at Mount Olivet Church, there was an intergenerational center, and I saw seniors and children working together. We tend to isolate the elderly, and that pushed me along to engage intergenerational activities," Awes continued.

She plans to keep HON visible so that all seniors in the Chatfield area can benefit from their neighbors, big or little.

"We have to keep hoping that people will need us and asking people if they need help, be it changing a light bulb or coming in for a couple hours to give a caregiver time to go to the store without having to bundle someone else up," Awes said. "We're coming into their homes, and we hope to be able to take care of things that have been bugging them. It's an excellent idea and we hope it catches on."

She added, "It's a really nice opportunity to keep the elderly in the community. We want to invest time in them, and it's something I enjoy doing, something I think is fun."

The director would like to create outlets for senior citizens to meet for coffee and conversation, enriching their lives through interaction with one another. She's also investigating the resources Chatfield already has available to its eldest citizens and determining how those resources can transform possibilities into realities.

"There are opportunities, along with providing home services, to provide seniors with opportunities because that's something they don't have here," Awes explained. "They need a central place they can all go. I'd love to be able to put a senior center together, and I'd love it if someone doesn't have a space rented downtown...that they'd let the seniors use it until it's rented."

HON will thrive if Awes can locate funding through grants and donations and also round up the able-bodied citizens willing to assist their elders.

"I'm looking at getting more funding and pursuing other programs for the community," she said. "The reason why we're doing the grant-seeking is we're hoping to provide senior socialization, a sense of opportunity for them to get together, maybe a senior center, and meetings like we have planned in January, where there'll be someone teaching healthy eating and cooking for one or two people, bringing healthy recipes that don't take a lot of fuss to make or clean up."

Awes, whose office is located in Chatfield Lutheran Church, currently has a wish list that includes members of the community stepping forward to lend a hand or hammer to help their neighbors as HON grows and develops its mission.

"The challenge right now is that we're starting to get seniors who need services, but with that, we need volunteers who can help with those services," Awes added. "We need to keep a balance between the services needed and the volunteers who provide those services."

She'd welcome the chance to be included in other area organizations and to serve them while building partnerships with HON.

"I'm working on getting everybody to know us, and I'm hoping to partner with as many organizations and groups as I can in Chatfield," Awes added. "And if committees and organizations need board members, I like to serve on boards, particularly in other organizations so I can get to know the community as a whole."

Awes spends her free time gardening, container gardening, walking her dog, shopping for antiques, attending auctions to find vintage furniture and "hanging out with my kids - I have twins in St. Paul, and my youngest is a Marine in Japan."

She plans to explore Chatfield further once the snow melts - winter isn't her gig. "I'm looking forward to bringing my bicycle down and riding around town this summer," Awes concluded.

For more information, email Sue Awes at director@honseniorpartners.org, stop in at 304 Fillmore St. SE, Chatfield, or call (507) 251-0520.