On The United Way: Senior Connection Mike Field ------------------ Staff Writer A lonely senior citizen living in Baltimore County will have someone looking after her, thanks to a program made possible by a grant from the United Way of Central Maryland. In addition to arranging transportation to and from one of the county's 18 senior centers, a case worker specializing in the needs of the infirm elderly will help plan classes and meals, arrange special activities and introduce the woman to new friends. Center Connection, a unique effort that provides special assistance to less active seniors in many of the county's senior centers, is just one of many United Way grant programs funded by unrestricted gifts to the United Way campaign. "This program is built around the family," said Baltimore County Department of Aging deputy director Arnold Eppel. "We want to provide special services to center members with special needs, whether it be problems with diabetes, dialysis or some other physical or emotional impairment." The Center Connection program funds specialists who work with the elderly and their family members to bring less active seniors into the centers where their particular needs are best met. Many of those benefiting from the program would be unable to participate in the activities of the county's senior centers without the additional aid provided by a Center Connection specialist. Without the program, they would be isolated at home, or forced to live within an institutional setting. "There are a vast array of services out there, not just for seniors, but for all members of the family that are confronting some of these issues," said Ellen Willinghan, program coordinator for the United Way family preservation grant, which funds the Center Connection program. Currently, there are 260 seniors in the program from locations throughout the county. One of the goals of this year's United Way grant is to expand the program to cover more thoroughly all of Baltimore County's elderly population. Seniors typically referred to the program are longtime center members in declining health and individuals whose needs are being looked after by family members, social workers or other care providers. In order to qualify, seniors must be able to care for their own physical needs independently while at the center, and must not require medical monitoring or close supervision. The Center Connection program is just one of dozens of community service programs throughout central Maryland made possible by direct grants from the United Way. Baltimore County residents interested in further information about the Center Connection program or any service for the elderly should call the Senior Information and Assistance Hotline at (410) 887-2594. Correction: Lottery rules published two weeks ago incorrectly stated a minimum pledge of $35 was necessary to be eligible to win. All faculty and staff returning a pledge card before Oct. 31 are eligible to win, regardless of the amount of their United Way pledge.
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