A team of volunteers from Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers poses with a woman whose yard they cleaned up.

A team of volunteers from Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers poses with a woman whose yard they cleaned up.

Photo provided by Karyn Curro of the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers

Cities and organizations work to meet overwhelming demand for senior home/chore services

By: Charity Meier | Metro | Published June 19, 2023


METRO DETROIT — Karyn Curro, the CEO of Interfaith Volunteer Services, said she first noticed the need while working with people in nursing homes over 31 years ago.

“I found that a lot of people who were living in nursing homes didn’t necessarily want to be there and, with a little extra help, they could stay in their own homes for longer and perhaps forever,” said Curro.

She said that some people were not in the nursing home for medical care but simply because they couldn’t take care of their daily needs at home. She said often they just needed help with daily housekeeping or transportation to appointments, or they were lonely.

However, when she started researching organizations that provided these types of services, she found there were a lot of gaps and approached the Area Agency on Aging, who was in the process of launching what would become IVC. Initially, IVC was started by a fiscal grant received by Catholic Charities of Macomb in 1992. In 1994 it became an independent 501(c)3.

IVC offers aid to seniors throughout Macomb county and parts of Oakland and St. Clair counties. The organization pairs seniors with volunteers to help them achieve a desired task. Curro said they are able to help hundreds of seniors a year with home chores, but she stresses that there is no guarantee that they will be able to assist with any given task.

“We are an all-volunteer organization,” said Curro. “We do have some paid staff in the office who are running the program, but all services are provided by volunteers. So that limits what we can do. … Since we’re an all-volunteer program, if someone calls in for help, regardless of how much they might need that help, we can’t guarantee we can give them help. … It just depends if we have a volunteer (with that skill set) in that area.”

The types of services that IVC routinely provides include yard work like trimming bushes, raking leaves and pulling weeds; cleaning windows, and changing screens and storm windows out; sweeping garages; and even taking the trash to the curb.

It also provides transportation to and from doctor appointments and grocery stores, as well as basic housekeeping, decluttering and organizing of rooms or closets, doing laundry, and washing dishes, along with minor home repairs such as plumbing, electrical and carpentry work, if they are small simple fixes.

“Regular housekeeping is a big need, because a lot of times people can manage in their own home, but they can’t do all the chores to keep up their home safely,” said Curro of Interfaith Volunteer Services, based in Roseville. “If you start having mobility issues, it’s much more difficult to clean a bathtub or a shower and do some of the heavier cleaning in your house. I think that is a real ongoing need that a lot of people have, and to hire a cleaning service is usually incredibly expensive for someone of a very limited income.”

The one service that they don’t provide frequently is lawn mowing services, because of the amount of equipment necessary to do so. However, the service might be possible if the person requesting it has a working lawn mower.

“We tend to describe the types of things we can do as something that you would ask a neighbor for help for. You know we don’t do anything too extensive. We don’t take on major repairs and renovations,” Curro said. “You might be comfortable having your neighbor rake your leaves for you, but you wouldn’t ask them to put a new roof on your house. It’s kind of the neighbor helping neighbor level of services that we are able to provide.”

Last year the organization served close to 500 people and their families, approximately 300 of whom were in Macomb County, while 200 were in Oakland and St. Clair counties. Curro said the reason for that is simply the amount of volunteers they have available in each area. Services are not provided on a daily basis, but some services are provided once or twice a month, depending on the need.

IVC does not have any income requirements but tends to focus its service offerings on those who would not otherwise be able to afford the help and who don’t have family to assist them.

“We are really trying to get to the people that are isolated and impoverished and just really need a helping hand, largely because our volunteers are doing this just from the kindness of their own hearts, and they want to help the people in the greatest need,” said Curro.

The Macomb County Office of Senior Services also offers a few programs to help seniors with chores such as seasonal yard cleanup and the Handy Helpers Program. The Handy Helper program offers light repair services such as replacing light bulbs, door locks, window catches, faucet washers and faucets. Program workers will also install screens, storm windows, window shades, curtain rods and weather stripping around doors, and caulk windows and repair furniture. Workers will provide heavy-duty cleaning of appliances, carpets and rugs. They scrub floors, wash walls, and clean interior windows that do not require a ladder to reach. They provide pest control and rodent services (except bed bugs) and install safety devices for seniors such as grip bars and bath chairs.

The Macomb County Office of Senior Services offers spring, summer and fall yard cleanup services. Volunteers rake leaves, clean flower beds, trim branches, wash exterior windows, and the like.

They do not provide snow removal services and will only provide lawn mowing services on a one-time basis if there is an “urgent need.”

However, some landscaping companies, such as Workhorse Services Lawncare and Landscaping, offer seniors a discount on lawn maintenance. Norm “Workhorse” Adams Sr., the owner of Workhorse Services, said seniors comprise about 80% of his business. He said that he always tries to give seniors a 10% discount on their lawn services. He offers lawn mowing, yard cleanup, small tree removal, bush and hedge trimming, etc.

“It’s kind of rewarding when you are able to help people who can’t help themselves,” Adams said.

One of his clients is an elderly couple; the man has cancer, and although he would like to cut the grass, he just physically can’t do it anymore. Adams said that the man will start to cut a path, and the wife will call Adams in to finish the job. “So, I really understand the problem that they go through.”

Adams, 55, said he understands seniors more than most people. He has had personal experience with struggling to find someone to help his aging mother with simple things around her home and to take her to her appointments, as well as someone his mother could trust.

“I pay (a caregiver) $25 an hour, but what she does is priceless, because they built a bond, and I don’t know what I would do without her,” Adams said of the woman who helps him with his mom.

Adams services Oakland County residents in Southfield, Eastpointe and Oak Park. He can be reached at (313)-415-0274.

To get services from the Macomb County Office of Senior Services you must be 60 or older and live in Macomb County. The services are offered free of charge, but donations/contributions are appreciated. Director Sheila Cote said there are currently only three part-time workers handling the tasks requested through the Handy Helper program. Due to the popularity of the program and limited funding, they are only able to provide a limited number of services, and the programs are waitlisted. There are currently 150 people on the list for handyman services and 100 people desiring spring/summer yard cleanup, which runs through the end of June. Cote said that they are doing their best to get through the entire list by the end of the month. However, those who do not get yard service this season will be put at the top of the list for fall yard cleanup.

“Our mission is to support seniors so that they can age in place and stay in their homes longer. And a lot of times they just need a little extra help,” said Cote. “They need somebody to fix a few things around their house or make it more comfortable for them.”

Cote said seniors are often so thankful for the volunteers who help them to maintain their homes and yards.

“It makes them feel so good that their yard looks nice. It really boosts their spirits when their house is looking nice. A lot of seniors worry about that. They can’t get to the lawn like they used to. They can’t trim their bushes. They can’t clean their yard. So, they feel self-conscious and upset that they’re not able to do that. So, when we’re able to send a team out there to do it, it just does wonders for their spirit.”

IVS and the Macomb County Office of Senior Services both provide “friend” services as well. IVS will send a volunteer to a seniors home as a “friendly visitor” to provide companionship, and the Office of Senior Services has “Friendly Callers” who will contact a senior via phone a couple of times a week to simply check in on them.

“It’s a much-needed program,” Cote said. “Our goal is to assist seniors to live independently and age in place, but, unfortunately, the funding isn’t enough to do that with every senior in Macomb County, so we try our best to get to everybody, but, unfortunately, it’s a funding issue. There just isn’t enough funding to meet the need at this time.”

A limited number of volunteers greatly limits the number of people who can be serviced. According to Curro, the number of volunteers working for IVC has dropped dramatically since the pandemic. She said they used to have approximately 600 volunteers, whereas today they have around 350.

“As much as we publicize services, we can’t help anybody if we don’t get the volunteers,” said Curro. Cote stressed that they appreciate the large organizations who volunteered their time to help with yard clean up this season, but they can always use more volunteers to be able to get to all those who are on the waiting list.

“The population is still continuing to age, so there are more people with these types of needs,” said Curro.

For more information on IVC, to obtain services or volunteer with IVC, call (586) 757-5551 or visit IVCinfo.org. To obtain services or volunteer with MCOS call (586) 469-5228 or visit.

Many other cities and communities throughout Oakland and Macomb Counties have home chore programs and offerings. To find out what your community has to offer, contact your city offices or senior center.