Agency on Aging Program Keeping Seniors’ Homes Safe

Mobile home repair for seniors allows for projects residents may not be able to afford on their own

By Molly Priddy

When the roof on Alfreda Piland’s trailer started letting in more rain and melted snow than it was keeping out, she didn’t have many options.

The 64-year-old Columbia Falls resident is immobilized by multiple sclerosis, making it impossible for her to climb onto the roof and fix anything herself, and living on social security doesn’t leave room for paying roofers to do it.

Piland decided to call the Flathead County Agency on Aging services, just to see if they could point her in the right direction.

“I’m a senior and disabled in a powerchair and I know that Agency on Aging is for seniors,” Piland said. “I just started there.”

As it turns out, Piland’s plight was the perfect case for the Agency on Aging’s Senior Mobile Home Repair Program, which helps Flathead County residents over the age of 60 with fixes or improvements to their trailers.

It took about a year to get through the process of being selected as a recipient of the program’s funds, but now workers come to her home after their own workdays to build a peaked roof on her flat-top trailer before the rainy fall season hits the valley.

“It’s a big-time relief,” Piland said. “Finally, I don’t have to have people coming over and shoveling the roof or helping do the roof; I can sit back and relax a little bit.”

Jim Atkinson, former director for AOA and now the program coordinator for the mobile home repair program, said the program is just one of many in the county that helps seniors live comfortably and with dignity.

It started in 2005, he said, and their first job was building a wheelchair ramp on a mobile home where the man living there hadn’t been outside in months. In the years since, the program has helped about 210 individuals with a total project cost of $213,892.

All of the money for these projects comes from donors, Atkinson said, and the board members who gather and decide which projects to take are all volunteers.

Before the board chooses a project, they visit the recipient to see the property and chat about various programs the resident may be qualified for, and they make sure the recipient has no other options, such as having their family or church community help them out.

“It usually just comes down to a plain lack of funds,” Atkinson said.

Those funds come from donors, and the program has been a popular space for those passionate about building the senior community.

Major donors include: Roundup for Safety; Whitefish Soroptimists; Northwestern Energy; First Interstate; First Interstate Foundation; Plum Creek; Glacier Bank; Oro y Plata; BNSF; Wells Fargo; Mountain West Bank; Washington Foundation; Crowley and Fleck; Kalispell Rotary; Sunshine Lioness Club; United Church Women; Angora Ridge Foundation; Flathead Community Foundation; Montana Brokers; Freedom Bank; Tamarack Brewing Co.; and Three Rivers Bank.

Since the program is administrated through Flathead County, licensed and insured professionals do all of the work performed on the mobile homes, ranging from adaptive additions to water heaters and furnaces, Atkinson said.

Anyone interested in the program can call Agency on Aging at 406-758-5370.

“This program and other agency programs are the undergirding of the community,” Atkinson said.

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