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By Teresa Sharp

Niagara correspondent

LEWISTON – Founded three decades ago by a handful of caring residents, HART Interfaith (Home Assistance Referral Team) continues its mission of linking caregivers with the elderly and infirm to help them stay in their own homes The organization will celebrate its 30th anniversary gala June 12 at Niagara Falls Country Club.

HART is a nonprofit referral service providing affordable home care for the elderly and infirm by matching people in need with skilled nurses, personal care aides, home maintenance providers, drivers and even companions. The group’s goal is to provide the names of carefully prescreened service providers within 24 hours of receiving a request. And it does so free of charge.

The organization was founded in 1982 by a few compassionate members of First Presbyterian Church of Lewiston, which still donates office space but is no longer otherwise connected. Relying largely on word-of-mouth advertising from satisfied clients, it aided more than 300 clients last year.

The organization concentrates mainly on Niagara County, although it will try to accommodate residents of Grand Island and the Tonawandas, as well. It relies solely on donations and grants.

Board President Charlie Jones said, “HART has provided a valuable service for this community for the past 30 years.”

Those seeking help or employment do not pay a fee to HART. Once the match is made, the rate of payment for care is mutually agreed upon by the service provider and the recipient, and is paid directly to the caregiver. HART tries to give each client at least a couple of choices in order to set up personal interviews and make a compatible selection.

Leila Kahn, a longtime board member, was also once a client.

“When I came home from the hospital with a broken foot, I needed help around the house,” Kahn recalled. “Knowing that HART could give me the names of qualified nurse’s aides was a tremendous advantage. I interviewed several candidates and hired a retired nurse who was filling a void in her life as well. She was an amazing caregiver. This service of matching caregivers with those needing help, without adding a per-hour fee, is unique in this region. That’s why it has lasted 30 years, and that’s why we are honoring some of the many agencies and volunteers who have made it possible.”

The following individuals or organizations will be honored at this month’s event: the Grigg Lewis Foundation, First Presbyterian Church of Lewiston, Dorothy Butler, Lucy Rainville, Reva Belle Kramer, Mary Lou Schultz and the families of Donna Ogg, the Rev. Paul Moore and Joanne Breitsman.

A cash bar and basket auction preview will be offered at 5:30 p.m., followed by a carved beef buffet dinner at 6:30.

Two special raffles will feature a handmade doll house with furniture donated by Sue’s Frame of Mind, and a seven-course gourmet dinner for eight guests, with butler and maid service, donated by Joanne Stanton of Hunt Real Estate ERA, which also includes a private tour of the restored 1824 Van Horn Mansion in Burt. Winners need not be present .

Tickets for the gala are $40 and may be purchased at the HART office in First Presbyterian Church, 505 Cayuga St., open 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, or by calling 754-8313. Reservations must be made by Monday.