Center links shovelers to snowed-in seniors
Nathan Georg and Jensen Stahr are classmates at Rolling Meadows High School, but they also combine on an important side hustle: shoveling driveways for senior citizens who live near their Arlington Heights homes.
"I enjoy shoveling. I find it kind of therapeutic," Nathan says, "especially when I can do it with friends. And it's nice to help out the community."
Nathan and Jensen signed up for the student snow shoveling referral program coordinated by the Arlington Heights Senior Center. Manager Tracey Colagrossi says the program is in its fourth year and this year has drawn the most students ever. Still, it's not enough.
"The demand is high," Colagrossi says. "According to my latest list, we have 190 older adults who have signed up and 34 students."
Colagrossi shared the program last fall with principals of local middle schools and high schools, and she also promotes the service through Arlington Heights village newsletters and on social media. But the turnout of teens cannot match the demand, especially this winter.
"I bet I had 15 calls (from homeowners)," Nathan says, "but I could only take the first two."
The program is designed for Arlington Heights seniors over 60 and those with disabilities. It is described as a referral program since both the seniors and the teens sign up through the senior center, with teens needing to have their parents sign off on the application.
Colagrossi keeps a database of both groups and shares the names of any new teens who sign up. It's up to the seniors to contact potential snow shovelers and to negotiate a price for the service. The senior center suggests $10-$15 an hour.
The list of shovelers also includes a color-coated map of where the teens live, allowing seniors the chance to contact those who live close to them.
Marge Rush of Arlington Heights found Nathan and Jensen through the senior center. Before this year, she employed her landscaper to handle snow removal, but he stopped offering the service this year.
Because Rush is retired and on a fixed income, she searched for an affordable alternative. So far, she says she has been delighted with the service.
"They're both well-mannered and polite," Rush says. "They always call me and tell me when they're coming. I'm just thrilled with them."
Colagrossi says the response from seniors has been positive, with most telling her how respectful the teens are. After the most recent snowstorms, she send out emergency emails to her shovelers to help some of the older adults who were trapped.
The teens' response was impressive, Colagrossi says.
Nathan and Jensen are committed to Rush and her neighbor. They not only cleared their driveways, but also returned to clear out the curb ramp at the end of the sidewalk that became blocked from the village snowplows.
"My motto is that their generosity almost always outvalues our services, but we're comfortable with whatever they want to pay," Nathan adds. "We know during the pandemic that not everyone's situation is stable."
Seniors and students can sign up online at vah.com. Click on Our Community, then click on Senior Center, then click on Snow Shoveling Referral Program. Or email email@example.com or call (847) 253-5532 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.