When people in the West Seattle community are in need, they’ve learned they can turn to Windermere broker Mary Ann Vandergriff. After a company backed out of providing turkeys for 40 elementary school families the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, the school’s family support worker called Vandergriff in a panic. Just a few phone calls later, the big-hearted broker had rounded up 40 vouchers for 20-pound turkeys.
“I have all this stuff in my head… things that come to me,” she says. “I love a challenge; give me a complicated puzzle.”
Volunteering was a big part of Vandergriff ’s childhood, so it was only natural that she got involved with the Windermere Foundation soon after joining the company in the early 1990s. As a single mom of two, Vandergriff was especially drawn to the mission of the Windermere Foundation, which collects a portion of the proceeds from homes bought or sold through Windermere to donate to projects that benefit low-income and homeless families. “Giving kids a chance, that’s the most important thing to me,” she says.
As the Windermere Foundation representative for the West Seattle office, Vandergriff has worked with countless organizations over the years. Early on, she jumped into spearheading fundraising for Project Cool, a program from the King County Coalition on Homelessness that provides students with backpacks stuffed with school supplies.
More recently, her office has supported the West Seattle Helpline, which provides emergency assistance to neighbors in need. Last year the team spent a service day setting up Clothesline, West Seattle Helpline’s free clothing store. “We completely put that store together, from laying carpet to organizing clothes to organizing the hangers that were donated,” Vandergriff says. “When you have 40 of us brokers in a day, you can move mountains.”
Although it creates more administrative work, the West Seattle office spreads its giving budget—about $25,000—throughout the year so that they always have some seed money on hand to fulfill a need when asked. They’ve helped mothers with breast cancer pay their bills while going through treatment, outfitted children in new winter coats, purchased appliances for a food bank, provided computers for a school, and made sure families had enough to eat during holiday breaks.
The list of organizations they’ve helped only grows over the years, and Vandergriff wouldn’t have it any other way.
“You help one person at a time,” she says. “It may not be big, it may be small, but even changing the life of one or two children makes a difference.”
By Haley Shapley – Originally published in Windermere Living
Since 1989, the Windermere Foundation has donated more than $36 million to provide shelter, food, children’s programs, emergency assistance, and other services for our communities. Learn more at Windermere.com/Foundation.
For many of us, the holidays give us an opportunity to spend special time with our parents. This can be a great time to check in, not only on life events, but also a good time to look for and address any health concerns you may have for your aging parents.
As folks age, they experience cognitive and physical changes that mean they need more help to stay in their current home. Or, it may be time to start discussing future living options, from improvements to their current home, a move to a retirement community, or an assisted living facility. Here are some tips on how to assess your parents and other loved ones needs:
Watching and listening
If you have two parents, try to spend time alone with each one. Sometimes one spouse feels they need to take care of the other all by themselves. In our family, my mother took on all of caretaking when our dad got dementia. She covered for him for many years. She wouldn’t consider hiring help nor ask for much help. Finally she reached the breaking point and just couldn’t deal with it a minute longer. Then we had to make an emergency placement to an assisted living facility. That was not fun. I wished we had stepped in sooner and had time to find a place on a more relaxed timeline.
Use the holidays as a time to touch base. The goal is not to decide anything specific. It’s an emotional and tender time of year. You can check on your parent’s status and safety just by being there, chatting and watching.
Basic Needs and Cognitive issues
Offer to help make a meal with your parent and see how that goes. Are they able to start a dish, pull all the ingredients together, and follow through with cooking it? Is there a fridge full of really old bits of food? What is out on the counters? People who are having cognitive problems frequently cannot follow through a complex set of tasks to produce a meal. Are there dishes from two weeks ago in the sink or on the counter? They may need something like Meals on Wheels or someone to cook for them a few times a week. A cleaner/helper could come in every other day to help around meal times.
Go for a drive to the store and have your parent do the driving. Are they driving too slowly or not able to take in the activity around them? Most older people will stop driving at night long before they are willing to give up driving altogether. You can point out the different options for transport, such as taxis, Access, or friends.
Watch their balance and ability to move around the house. Are there clear pathways to walk without tripping? Are there throw rugs? Throw rugs are actually one of the biggest hazards in a home for an older person. Is the bathroom safe? Does it have grab bars? A raised toilet seat? When discussing the need to put in safety precautions, like bars or removing some of the clutter, it is helpful to let your older parent know that falls are the most common reason that folks wind up in the hospital–and have to move from their home. If they can keep from falling they will last much longer at home.
Do a quick cruise through the medicine cabinet. Check dates on meds. If your parent is taking a lot of medications, have a discussion about how that is going for them and if they have a pill box to organize their meds. Make a list of what their meds are so that, if you have an emergency doctor visit with them, you will have all that information at hand.
Having “the talk”
Sometimes the holidays, or just after, are a good time to have “the talk” about what your parent is concerned about as they get older. It is a time for listening, not telling. Be sensitive to what they want and respect their need to make their own decisions. We all are afraid of losing our independence. Do they want to stay in their home? A majority do. What steps can you take now to help them do that? Prepare yourself ahead of time with some options that might be acceptable to them. Or would they like to move to a community where they can get more help as they need it? Family dynamics are so different. Some families would never consider having their parent in a community where others take care of them, and yet, some parents would never want their own children to have to take care of them. There are lots of options. Start talking about it early and make a plan.
For more information and to contact a Windermere Senior Transitions Specialist, please visit: http://windermeretransitions.com/
Penny Bolton has been helping people make a move successfully in Seattle since 1991. A lifelong resident, she is known for her knowledge of the market and for her determination to get her clients their best outcome whether buying or selling. She and her business partner, Rebecca Evans, are famous within the real estate community for their thorough preparation of their listings and their professional representation of their buyers.
Owning a home provides a sense of security, but the process of building towards homeownership can be overwhelming. There are obstacles that can get in the way of even the most diligent prospective buyer. For Zaharra Karungi, there were dozens of opportunities to see her dream of buying a home for herself and her daughter waylaid. But with hard work, a thoughtful lender, a baseball game, and a determined Windermere agent, Karungi is now a proud homeowner in Antioch, California.
Windermere agent James Quintero didn’t suspect he’d walk away with a new client when he attended “Windermere Real Estate Agent Appreciation Day” at an Oakland Athletics baseball game earlier this year. But that’s exactly what happened when he ran into mortgage lender Bret Henly who told him about someone special he was working with by the name of Zaharra Karungi.
Karungi’s pathway to homeownership was a winding one. Arriving from Uganda at the age of 25 with the goal of studying to become a nurse, Karungi began her time in the United States with next to nothing. A generous friend allowed her to stay in their walk-in closet for eight months, but Karungi brought with her little more than a few changes of clothes and basic necessities. While studying for her nursing degree, Karungi babysat and worked odd jobs to afford her continuing education, finally emerging as a certified vocational nurse in 2013. Now a single mother with a precocious 10-month-old daughter named Victoria, Karungi was in search of the next step of security in pursuing her American Dream: owning a home.
Finding herself frustrated with the agent she’d been working with, and outbid on multiple homes, Karungi was connected with Windermere agent James Quintero with the assistance of Henly. After attending an open house at an Antioch, CA, condo, Quintero helped Karungi make a well-constructed offer to the sellers. Despite two other offers, her bid was chosen. At Quintero’s behest, the sellers took extra care to ensure the home was unimpeachably safe for a 10-month-old like Victoria.
On August 9 of this year, Karungi received the keys to her new two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo – the same day that she officially gained her United States citizenship. Owning a home provides a sense of security and confidence, knowing that whatever happens, you have a refuge where you lay your head at night. For Zaharra Karungi it was a long time coming.