Minnesota Faith in Action Project's Long Hours and Struggles Pay Off - For Now

Field of Work: Providing volunteer services for elderly and disabled people through interfaith programs.

Problem Synopsis: In 1983, more than 10 million American elderly or persons with chronic disabilities had limited ability to carry on such essential activities of daily living as feeding, dressing, and bathing. Such individuals usually require a mix of medical and supportive services to help with ordinary activities of daily living such as feeding, bathing, dressing, housekeeping and transportation.

Mankato, Minn. was in dire need of services for people who were homebound, disabled or struggling in other ways. At that time, state and local services for elderly people and people with disabilities were largely uncoordinated and had eligibility requirements that, from some perspectives, seemed arbitrary. Some programs limited their eligibility to people 65 and older: those who were younger—and just as needy—could not receive services.

Synopsis of the Work: Faith in Action, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, funded hundreds of projects across the country to support interfaith volunteer caregiving. Pam Determan, the executive director of VINE Faith in Action of Mankato, Minn., found it a struggle to establish and build the organization. It was a struggle, though, that eventually paid off.

Key Results: From the start, VINE served everyone in need. As VINE reported to RWJF in 1997:

  • Approximately 250 volunteers provided direct assistance to care recipients. An additional 200 people assisted the project in governance, publicity, fundraising and group service efforts.
  • VINE volunteers provided practical, non-medical assistance to a total of 386 elderly individuals and people with disabilities who needed help with their physical, social and spiritual needs. Some 14 percent of the people assisted had a mental illness; 24 percent had no congregational affiliation.