We continue our Share Your Story series with a conversation with supporter Paula Conger. Paula and her husband Jeremy recently became the first individual donors to top $100,000 in giving to Aging Resources - we could not be more grateful for their extraordinary support. Recently, we sat down with Paula to discuss her connection to the organization, the future of Aging Resources, and the challenges and opportunities facing today's (and tomorrow's) older adults.
Aging Resources (AR): How did your relationship with Aging Resources start?
Paula Conger (PC): I was looking for a volunteer opportunity and I want to say it was nine years ago that I found [Aging Resources Executive Director] Karie, when she was still in an office that only had 2 cubicles. Over time, we kept brainstorming, and networking, and finding that we needed to recruit more volunteers. We were soon getting so many clients that the organization needed to hire more staff and from then on it grew exponentially.
AR: What attracted you to Aging Resources’ mission in the first place?
PC: I’ve always had a heart for seniors, I just feel called to help them in any way I can. And then I met Karie, and she’s exactly the same, and then we met other volunteers, and it just built upon itself.
AR: What made you decide to make your first gift to the organization?
PC: That was a no brainer. My husband and I feel called to give – the first year when it was time to decide where our giving would go, it was immediately apparent to us that so much good could be done with our gift to Neighbor Network.
We know that the organization spends the money wisely - Karie and the staff are so resourceful. We feel like every penny we give is stretched as far as it can go. When I started, Aging Resources didn’t have even a single vehicle, and now there’s a fleet! The staff and volunteer growth – that’s just been thrilling to see.
AR: What motivates you to stay involved?
PC: Selfishly, I get a lot of joy out of it. I’ve heard a saying that if you do all you can to bring others happiness, you will be the happiest person you can be. That is so appropriate to Neighbor Network. The more we give, the more we get back, in spades. It’s not our goal to get back, but we do. It really makes our hearts feel good.
AR: Is there an aspect of our programming that you particularly connect with?
PC: Well, I’m in a unique position in that I am a client of Neighbor Network. I have to use oxygen, I have to use a wheelchair outside the home, so for many years people have been helping me with rides to doctor’s appointments or to special appointments and activities. I also have had the unique opportunity to serve as a volunteer, as well – like when I served as the organization’s board chair. It’s just such a worthy cause.
AR: What excites you about the organization’s future?
PC: The fact that there’s a Parker office – I can envision that Parker will need everything the Castle Rock office has. And who knows where else – what other locations might be needed.
And then there’s the potential kitchen and meal delivery project. Well, cooking meals for myself can be a challenge – I’d love to see some good meals come out of an Aging Resources Kitchen.
AR: If you could send a message to other Aging Resources supporters, what would you say?
PC: They say it takes a village to raise a child. But it takes a community of caring volunteers and advocates to give older adults the life that they deserve, that they’ve earned. We all have a responsibility to do so, because they’ve given their lives for all of us.
AR: Is there anything you wish everyone knew about AR or the older adult population?
PC: I wish everyone knew how rapidly our country is aging – the statistics bear out that we’re all going to need an Aging Resources before we know it. And one thing that I want to point out is that the pandemic really brought this to the fore – older adults without resources can struggle with “failure to thrive” – being isolated, without socialization, with unmet needs – this can be fatal. The pandemic brought into the open just how much our seniors need us, and how much we miss them, as well. We miss the love and joy and laughter of our parents and elderly friends and family.
I love to the see the videos where grandparents finally get to see their grandchildren after a year, a year and half – that seems to bring so much joy to everyone. If we could bottle that up, I think that could change the world.
AR: Thank you so much. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
PC: There’s such a dynamic group of people now at Aging Resources that I can see endless opportunities for it to grow. Everyone is gifted in a particular way that just makes them perfectly suited for the tasks they’re doing. They all seem so kind and warm – I bet the older adults love them.