SANDOWN – Following comments made by a member of the Sandown Senior Affairs Transportation Program, Cindee Tanuma, executive director of Community Caregivers of Greater Derry, said she has the need to defend her organization.
Tanuma recently sent a letter to the Sandown board of selectmen that indicated remorse at having to enter the fray, but spelled out how Caregivers had previously helped the Transportation Program and was willing to help in the future.
That letter was read into the minutes during the board’s Aug. 12 meeting.
As reported previously by the Tri-Town Times, Nelson Rheaume, chair of the Sandown Transportation Program, stated that Caregivers was not interested in helping his program. Sandown can take care of its own, said Rheaume.
The comment came after selectman Brenda Copp suggested that it would be wise if the two groups could cooperate for the betterment of Sandown’s seniors and homebound.
Collaboration has been a long aired suggestion since Senior Affairs was founded in 2011 but never gained traction.
Tanuma explained that she had reached out on more than one occasion to Senior Affairs, offering her time, expertise and Caregivers’ documents, but that her offers went largely ignored. She said the Sandown group has never contacted her for advice, help or collaboration.
“You know me well enough to know that I am a team player and am obliging to anyone that asks me for help. I was just a little upset to know that they were saying something at the meeting that was clearly fabricated,” wrote Tanuma.
While the group did not contact her, in the early days of Senior Affairs Tanuma invited herself to one of its meetings to offer her knowledge.
Later she provided the group with some of the documents Caregivers uses, such as its brochure and policies. Much of the Transportation Program’s brochure is similar to the one Caregivers uses.
Tanuma also explained that she has directed clients to Sandown’s group when their needs were too last-minute for Caregivers to help. “I have also provided all new potential clients with their information in an effort to be helpful and collaborative,” said Tanuma.
“I am not a political person and don’t like conflict, but I felt I needed to defend our agency,” wrote Tanuma. “I know there was a worry that the negativity to us would threaten our involvement in Sandown. Please know we aren’t going anywhere; you need not worry. People need us there and we will do anything we can to help them.”
Since the Transportation Program was set up, Caregivers has had a difficult time in attracting new drivers. Tanuma explained that she is still fielding many referrals for residents but helping those who need transportation can take longer than it used to.
Caregivers serves the transportation, home and social needs of elderly, disabled and homebound residents in Sandown, Chester, Hampstead, Derry, Danville, Londonderry and Windham. About 30 percent of what the group does is provide rides, with the rest of its efforts going to home-related services, from finding volunteers to building wheelchair access to helping with chores.
Contacted after the meeting, Rheaume said the impression he got from the meeting that Tanuma attended was that Caregivers did not want to help. He reiterated his statements that Sandown should be able to take care of its own without outside help, and pointed to community support of the Transportation Program as proof that it was needed.
Rheaume said he did not see a future for cooperation between the two groups.
Rheaume initially charged Caregivers with not wanting to help during a discussion on whether his group should be allowed to accept a donated van for its work. Ultimately the selectmen decided against accepting the vehicle and according to Tanuma. it may have been a wise choice.
Caregivers has 25 years of experience in transporting and aiding seniors and homebound residents and according to Tanuma, the Manchester Caregivers had obtained grant funding for a van. That van often sits idle, according to Tanuma, as most drivers prefer using their own vehicles. While the grant money is now gone, the Manchester Caregivers still must maintain, fuel, register and insure a rarely used vehicle.
Tanuma said that after discussing the issue with Manchester, her own board decided against purchasing a van. She said she was willing to pass on the contact information of the Manchester Caregivers director.
Across their service area last year, volunteers with Caregivers of Greater Derry drove clients 103,603 miles to medical appointments and gave 33,355 hours of their time. According to the group, that time, valued by the Independent Sector (a coalition of nonprofit and corporate giving programs) at $22.14 per hour, is equivalent to $712,462.
Sandown gives $2,000 a year to help Caregivers help its residents.