Kidder helps New Scotland eldery in need

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Susan Kidder stands next to a tall shelf filled with yarn that is to be made into hats, blankets, and other items by volunteers with New Scotland Senior Services. Some of the volunteers will be selling knitted items at tables on Election Day in New Scotland and Voorheesville.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Colorful hats and a blanket are displayed in Susan Kidder’s office in New Scotland Town Hall. The hats are donated to soldiers through Warmth for Warriors. The blanket shown here has different materials and items on each square, and will be given to a person with Alzheimer’s disease. People with Alzheimer’s tend to fiddle with things, Kidder said, and these kinds of blankets help keep their hands occupied.

NEW SCOTLAND — Plastic bags full of knitted hats, scarves, and blankets are piled in Susan Kidder’s office in New Scotland Town Hall. Kidder, the senior services liaison for the town for the past seven years, will help sell the knitted items during Election Day at polling places in New Scotland and Voorheesville.

“Oh my gosh, we’ve got so much stuff,” Kidder said. “It’s wonderful.”

Last year was the first that Kidder and her group of about 40 volunteers sold items knitted by senior volunteers to raise money for the group.

This year, volunteers will have tables at Saint Matthew’s Church in Voorheesville and the New Scotland Community Center on Election Day.

The one-day sale netted them over $400 last year, and senior services gave out about $1,350 in raised funds to people over the entire year.

“We could always use more knitters,” Kidder said. As well as being sold on Election Day, knitted goods are donated to nursing homes, the Linus Project, and Warmth for Warriors.

As she displayed the myriad hats, scarves, and blankets, Kidder pointed out a multi-colored cap, made with pink, yellow, and blue yarn.

That one wouldn’t be fitting for a solider, she said, but, if a solider gave it to a child in need, they will have made a best friend for life.

Blankets are often given to nursing homes, and some blankets are made with Alzheimer’s patients in mind, she continued.

Some people with Alzheimer’s disease fiddle with things, Kidder said, as she showed a patchwork blanket where each square was a different material. One square had a zipper on it, another had Velcro.

New Scotland Senior Services does more than knitting, though; the group also hosts and organizes trips for seniors to places such as the Saratoga Auto Museum and meetings of the New Scotland Historical Society.

Senior services also has two buses and two cars, Kidder said, which are used for the trips and also to drive people to and from medical appointments.

Helping people get to medical appointments takes precedent over other uses for the cars, Kidder said.

“Almost hidden” poverty

While Kidder has many volunteers to help with driving and organizing trips and events, much of the sensitive work with town seniors is her job.

And Kidder’s job is a busy one; this Monday morning she had three different visitors and at least four phone calls in about an hour.

She describes poverty in New Scotland as “almost hidden,” but said it does exist, particularly among the elderly who are living on a fixed income.

Housing is a prevalent problem, she said, particularly with utility costs increasing.

“They don’t want to leave their homes,” she said. “How many times can you move at 80 years old?”

Kidder noted the lack of local affordable senior housing, and the rising cost of nursing homes: in the thousands of dollars per month.

“The cost of a two-by-four is the same whether it’s for subsidized housing, which makes no money, or a $500,000 house,” she said.

Oftentimes, people need help with filling out forms to get government aid for housing or medical care.

“Sometimes, people just need a hand to get through,” Kidder said. County, state, and federal government agencies require a lot of verification to get any assistance, she continued, and much of the paperwork is digital, leaving seniors without computer skills in a pinch.

“They want to give up… It’s overwhelming,” she said.

One person she has been working with has been going through paperwork to get her roof fixed since May, Kidder continued, gesturing to a folder full of papers.

In many cases, people don’t know that they are eligible for money-saving government programs, she added, and she helps them determine, based on their income level, programs they would qualify for.

“Americans don’t read; that’s just my opinion,” she said, “and I’m just as guilty of it.”

Kidder said people often bring in packets from insurance companies, or government institutions, and don’t understand what to do with them, and give up, frustrated, before trying to read through the information.

Monday morning, between phone calls, Kidder looked through a man’s bills and asked him if he was sure he was paying the lowest rate he could get for car and home insurance.

Money management is something Kidder helps many seniors with, and much of the money raised by the senior services is donated to people who otherwise couldn’t pay their bills.

Several oil companies are very cooperative with the town and helping people get heating oil for the winter, she said, but that isn’t always enough.

“People sometimes don’t make wise decisions with money,” Kidder said.

She tries to help seniors be independent, and, when they come to her for help, asks them if they have any friends or family close by that can help.

Often, they don’t, she said, adding that people these days isolate themselves.

“People don’t live in a community,” she said.

Kidder, however, lives in the same New Salem house where she grew up.

She encourages people to donate items to local organizations rather than throw them away, as the needs of local seniors are constantly changing.

As Kidder works with New Scotland seniors to help meet their needs, she keeps her motto in mind: “Let’s work together so we can make it through this lifetime.”

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