LEWISTON - Daisy Bell, 102, reads the newspaper each day, follows the Buffalo Sabres and is so healthy, "I don't even take an aspirin," the long-retired legal secretary is proud to say.
She also remains in her own home, thanks in large part to services provided by a nonprofit Lewiston organization celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Two years ago, HART Interfaith (Home Assistance Referral Team), of Lewiston, connected Bell with Margaret Drosky and Kim Wagner, who visit Bell on scheduled days and perform routine tasks, from preparing breakfast to helping her bathe.
HART is a nonprofit referral service, matching people in need with skilled nurses, personal care aides, home maintenance providers, drivers and even companions.
Neither the person seeking help, nor the person looking for employment pays HART. Once the match is made, the rate of payment for care is mutually agreed upon by the service provider and recipient. The group's goal is to provide the names of carefully prescreened service providers within 24 hours of the request.
HART is hosting its 30th anniversary kickoff celebration from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Brickyard Pub and BBQ, 432 Center St., Lewiston. Tickets may be purchased at the door or at the HART office, 505 Cayuga St., for $10. The evening will include food, music, door prizes and a 50/50 raffle.
These fundraisers are vital, because HART relies entirely on donations and grants.
"Help at home is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said Charlie Jones, president of HART's board of directors. "We have access to 250 caregivers."
Leila Kahn, also a HART board member, said, "I used HART myself when I came out of the hospital. Someone came and helped me for a week.
"Sometimes, you get a day [of notice] before you're released from the hospital to go home and you need help," Kahn said. "That's when we're needed, and we do have the people to help."
She added that 353 people were aided by HART's services just last year - satisfying a wide variety of needs, for short spells or for longer terms.
Bell's caregivers know she's lucky; at age 102, she has no serious medical problems and doesn't rely on any prescriptions.
Drosky, of the Town of Niagara, visits each weekday morning, while Wagner, of Wheatfield, has weekend duty. In addition, close friend David Gaj, from her old neighborhood, visits three times a week and shops and cleans for Bell.
"It's just a joy to come here every morning," said Drosky, as she combed Bell's hair while Bell sat sipping her coffee at her living room table on a recent morning. "She inspires me!"
"As long as I have my help at home, I'm all right," said Bell. "I have Margaret and Kim, and I've known David since he was a boy. This is very convenient, and I have everything close by."
Bell became a widow 30 years ago. Six years ago, she sold her DeVeaux home of 50 years and moved into an apartment. She called on HART for help two years ago, and HART matched her up with Drosky and Wagner.
On their appointed days, Drosky and Wagner make Bell's breakfast, help her get dressed, make her bed and set up her big meal for noon.
"We have a huge need in our community to help people stay in their own homes, and that's why anytime I have a chance to refer someone to HART, I do," Wagner said.
Wagner, who has her bachelor's degree in social work and works full time for Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara as manager of supported employment, also has a nursing background. She has worked through HART referrals for nearly 30 years.
Drosky has been with HART 27 years and has worked for a variety of people as a home helper. She said she and Wagner - and several neighbors and friends - also enjoy cooking for Bell and bringing her specials treats.
"Miss Daisy is wonderful," Drosky said. "Her family flies in from Florida for her birthday each year, and her nephew said to me, 'You and Kim and Dave [Gaj] take such good care of our aunt,' and that makes us feel real good. She's very happy here."
Jolene Kline was one of HART's first caregivers. The retired licensed practical nurse recalled helping her clients with everything from adjusting pillows to make them more comfortable to providing special nursing care to those on ventilators.
"Many people would have had to go into nursing homes and we were able to help them stay in their own homes, instead," she recalled. "They would pay out of pocket, and the prices are very minimal [through HART]."
"I enjoyed helping people and talking to them and hearing so many of their stories," Kline added. "Some would say, 'I haven't talked to anyone in two weeks.' It involves so much, but it is so rewarding. And many families appreciated what we were doing."
Jones said HART hopes to reach more people who need help through its website, www.HartInterfaith.org. The staff, which works from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, may be reached at 754-8313 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The three part-timers who make up the staff still work in space donated 30 years ago by First Presbyterian Church of Lewiston, when a few church members started the organization. But the nondenominational organization is no longer operated through the church.
HART is always looking for volunteers, for caregivers and, of course, for those in need of help, Jones said.
Upcoming events for HART include: the annual fund drive in October; a Natural Link raffle in November; and a Victorian Tea in April.