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Nichols: Let’s give more attention to FoCo Adopt-a-Neighbor program

Fort Collins city hall
A sign posted outside the entrance to Fort Collins City Hall. (Skyler Pradhan | The Collegian)

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

The pandemic has put many different outlets to help the Fort Collins community on the back burner and they need assistance — specifically, the Adopt-a-Neighbor program. 

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This program is designed to pair volunteers with an elderly member of the Fort Collins community that has filled out a request form. Requests include shoveling driveways, getting groceries, picking up medications and pet care — all important things, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The main website from the City of Fort Collins for Adopt-a-Neighbor states that this program has expanded to specifically accommodate the needs of people who are more vulnerable to getting COVID-19. 

Since this program seems to be safe enough with their COVID-19 protocols, it needs more acknowledgement and participation. About 9% of the Fort Collins population are senior citizens and about 32% of them live alone. Since seniors are a group susceptible to COVID-19, about 4,000 people in Fort Collins could benefit from this program, and that is without the people who are susceptible in other ways.  

All of the general applications to become a volunteer or get a volunteer are online. Volunteers accepted into the program will have to go through a background check and a COVID-19 safety training with the City of Fort Collins. Unfortunately, the website does not provide very much information on COVID training or protocols, so it is understandable why some may remain hesitant to sign up. 

People who need assistance from a volunteer would benefit so much more from being exposed to a single volunteer instead of going out and either possibly physically hurting themselves or exposing themselves to an entire grocery store of people.”

However, the practices taught to the volunteers make it as safe as possible. In an email to The Collegian, Jan Sawyer, the special events coordinator for the City of Fort Collins, said the training done by the City informs the volunteers on many COVID-19 practices. Volunteers must wear a mask when doing their work and stay 6 feet away from adopted neighbors. They are also required to fill out a symptom checker before they start any volunteer hours. 

Additionally, “volunteers are not permitted to go inside a neighbor’s home,” according to Sawyer. This means the neighbor for which they are volunteering stays extra safe within their home while still getting the help they need. 

The volunteer handbook, however, is not updated to reflect COVID-19 guidelines. Much of the COVID-19 safety procedures rely on the volunteer’s memory and compliance of their training. This can be a bit dangerous since there are so many people out there who still don’t even wear masks and don’t believe in the pandemic. It also might deter neighbors from signing up in fear of there not being any COVID-19 protocol.

But there is great reward in this program. People who need assistance from a volunteer would benefit so much more from being exposed to a single volunteer instead of going out and either possibly physically hurting themselves or exposing themselves to an entire grocery store of people.

Sawyer also described the importance of Adopt-a-Neighbor as “people helping other people” and that is a cause we should all be willing to back. Adopt-a-Neighbor is still looking for more volunteers to help with the demand for help needed during the pandemic. Fort Collins should elaborate more of their protocols in their program handbook, but we need to be the people who are healthy and willing to help. 

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Rinoa Nichols can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @RinoaNichols.

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