November 21, 2012

Joan Sheedy, 77, of Portland, founder of the Senior Snow Shoveling Project

By Tom Bell
Staff Writer

After every snowstorm in Portland, squadrons of volunteers - mostly high school students - fan out throughout the city to clear snow for the elderly.

click image to enlarge

Monday, November 19, 2012. Joan Sheedy has started a program in which volunteers shovel porches, sidewalks, and steps of elderly people. Sheedy keeps track of her 156 clients and the volunteers with her notebook and her home phone.

John Ewing/Staff Photographer

Joan Sheedy coordinates the operation from her living room at the Bayview Heights senior housing facility atop Munjoy Hill.

The program, which Sheedy started seven years ago, is now being promoted as a model for other cities by the National Association of Triads, a nonprofit in Alexandria, Va., that works with law enforcement agencies on initiatives to make seniors feel more secure.

"We need more Joan Sheedys," says Terri Hicks, the group's program coordinator. "She's a dynamo."

Sheedy started the program after the city began fining people $110 for not removing snow on their sidewalks. Angry that seniors on fixed incomes were getting fined, Sheedy realized the solution was simple: Match all the high school students who need to perform community service with elderly people who need help with snow removal.

While high school students provide most of the muscle, other shovelers include pre-release prisoners from Cumberland County Jail and volunteers from the Boys Scouts and the Boys and Girls Club of Southern Maine.

More than 150 households receive the service, which is free to Portland residents at least 65 years old.

"I am very happy in my 77th year because I know I'm doing a good service for a whole lot of people around the city," she says.

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