If it takes a village to rear a child, it also takes a village to help aging residents remain in their homes and communities. Fortunately, Benicia and Vallejo has one—the Carquinez Village.
Rather than a residential community, Carquinez Village is a membership organization—in the planning stage since 2015 and launched in 2017—as a network of volunteer community support to meet some of older residents’ needs.
Two Benicia residents in on the ground floor, Judie Donaldson and Lois Requist , realized that older residents who didn't have family living nearby could stay here if only they could get a little help.
They sought guidance from Village to Village Network, in starting the local organization within the national “village” movement, that encourages volunteers to help older residents with simple tasks or transportation so they can remain living independently at home. The organization’s name, Carquinez Village (CV), shows that membership can come from beyond Benicia.
Donaldson said CV volunteers provide services that often fall through the cracks, but impact an older adult’s quality of life—replacing smoke alarm batteries, accompanying someone to a doctor’s office not only to provide transport but as a listener, or calling someone on the first anniversary of a spouse’s death.”
“We have 95 members, 29 of them over 80,” Requist said. Some are active, able to provide help, while others have challenges volunteers can meet. “Those who are active appear to have embraced a robust and positive view of aging,” Donaldson added. The less mobile appreciate the available services, and some members joined merely to support the village.
Requist said 60 Village volunteers have passed background checks and have training to provide transportation, make minor repairs, undertake some housekeeping chores or help in the yard. “One of our volunteers is a 73-year-old woman who comes from a family with 15 children. She has the reputation of being able to fix anything,” she said.
For regular housekeeping or yard care, CV maintains a list of vendors that members might hire. But CV provides more than everyday services. Program Chairpersons Linda Barron and Alan Plutchok develop what Donaldson called “a robust monthly schedule of 15-plus activities that includes a movie of interest to seniors, a field trip, a meditation group, mahjong, an interview of an interesting person, a potluck dinner and more.” Along the way, organizers learned what best appealed to members, and have customized those programs.
Carquinez Village’s monthly Senior Speakers series educates older adults about health-related topics, from how to talk to a doctor to dealing with sleeping problems and other subjects. These programs “are there to stimulate the mind, build connections and community and ward off isolation and loneliness,” Donaldson said.
“The other day, a member called to say that she wanted to register for our monthly potluck. It was her first time attending the potluck, but she said that it was important for her well-being to get out more,” she said.
Benicia Public Library lets CV use its Doña Benicia Room for meetings, and Heritage Presbyterian Church provides space for board meetings. At times, Northgate Christian Church lets the Village use its spaces with electronic equipment needed for certain programs, and Hamann Real Estate has given the organization financial support.
“Creating this activity schedule out of the air symbolizes what we’ve accomplished,” Donaldson said. “By the way, we think that we have the best potluck in town!”
Membership in Carquinez Village, which has 502(C)(3) status, is $360 a year for individuals or $540 for a household. Its service phone line is staffed from 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday, through which requests for services and messages to volunteers are taken.