Creating A Better Place To Live and the Best Place to Grow Old
Updated: Jul 2, 2020
The Mustard Seed Project … helping seniors to age safely in place
By Jillian Chandler
“I wish there was one in every community,” affirms Eric Blegen, executive director of The Mustard Seed Project of Key Peninsula.
Founded in 2006 by Edie Morgan, The Mustard Seed Project has been devoted to serving seniors in the Key Peninsula and Western Washington, providing a variety of services and programs to best allow them to age safely in place in their own homes, in a healthy and happy way.
“When Edie Morgan founded the Mustard Seed, the focus was almost exclusively on programs to support people to age in place,” says Eric, who has been the executive director for just shy of two years. “Those programs grew and developed, and in 2016 we were able to move into our current building, the Crandall Center. After much investment in the building, we now have a quality senior center that has spaces for our classes like yoga and SAIL, both of which aim to keep seniors fit and socially connected to others, as well as art and monthly informational forums ranging topics from Medicare enrollment to estate planning.”
The Mustard Seed Project does this through their wonderful staff and many volunteers. From their transportation program, providing seniors a safe ride to doctor’s visits or the grocery store, to a volunteer network who are ready and able to assist with yard work, minor home repairs and light chores; and even friendly visits to check in on local seniors and simply engage in conversation. The information and referral program ensures that seniors can easily access resources and enrichment programs that keep them engaged with each other and their community.
As the coronavirus has affected everyone, especially the elderly, The Mustard Seed quickly adapted in order to keep them connected and active during this difficult, and sometimes lonely, time. Their enrichment programming can now be found online on YouTube, allowing seniors to stay active through yoga and SAIL, dancing, gardening videos, painting classes, story time and more! They even provided DVDs of the classes for those seniors who do not have access to the internet.
They implemented a bagged lunch meal delivery, which began in late March. As of the end of June, the organization had delivered nearly 700 meals to seniors throughout the community and hope to continue this service even after the pandemic has passed.
“That’s really been something that’s remarkable, the meal numbers, service, the video views. There have been hundreds of views; we’re actually maybe touching more people than when people were coming to the center,” says Eric. “Our adaptations have allowed us to serve seniors continuously and to adapt to current needs while keeping clients and volunteers safe.”
Eric stated that the needs of seniors continue, regardless of the pandemic, which include financial, assistance with meals and in-home care, home safety, accessing resources and staying connected to community to avoid isolation.
For those seeking support or who know of someone who could benefit from the services provided by The Mustard Seed, there are several ways to reach out: Call 253.884.9814, email email@example.com, message them directly through their contact form on their website at TheMustardSeedProject.org/contact or via Facebook.com/TheMustardSeedProject. “Staff and volunteers are always here ready to help,” says Heather Anthony, program manager. “We go above and beyond … and if it’s beyond us, we make sure to provide them with the proper resources.”
In the last five years alone, The Mustard Seed Project has served 2,231 seniors, with 8,056 instances of service. Volunteers have given more than 14,095 hours of their time and have logged 161,000 miles through their transportation program.
For Eric, he finds his ability to make a difference in the lives of others the most fulfilling. “I have a spot in my heart for seniors,” he smiles. “I have parents, grandparents. We all get old, and we all benefit when seniors are treated well and living in a healthy way. It gives me a lot of joy.”
“I feel the same way,” adds Heather. “I feel drawn to help these seniors who live in our community, for them to be seen, heard and taken care of. Seeing them smile or receiving a hugis the best reward —I’ve gotten some amazing hugs over the last couple of years.”
There is exciting news for not only The Mustard Seed Project but for seniors of the Key Peninsula, as Eric says they are close to securing construction loan financing for their new 30-bed assisted living facility in Key Center. “We’ve raised and secured over $3.4 million toward our project and hope to break ground (permits are secured) either this late summeror next spring.” Once they break ground, Eric estimates the project will take about a year to complete.
The facility will be built just across the street from the Crandall Center in Key Center and will “become a hub of activity when in operation.” Currently, there is no assisted living on the Key Peninsula. This results in seniors having no other option but to leave their community when the time comes for supportive care (and they are no longer able to remain in their homes safely). “We will provide an alternative,” says Eric.
Each day, the team has a goal: to make the Key Peninsula an even better place to live; to make it the best place to grow old. “That’s really the vision,” says Eric. “We have an opportunity here to create a really good example of how to take care of our seniors and respect them and make it a wonderful place to grow old.”