Stillwater nonprofit helps older adults stay independent longer.
“Each act of service is a thread that ties people, communities and lives together …”
For more than 55 years, the folks behind Community Thread have been living out this belief. The Stillwater-based nonprofit provides opportunities for adults to learn, socialize and stay engaged in their community with the hope that they can stay living independently longer.
Rachel Presslein, director of Community Thread’s Thrive program, says that, while the organization is most know for its flagship service of providing older adults with rides to their appointments, its mission has evolved into so much more.
In April 2022, Community Thread rolled out Thrive—a membership program that, through the help of volunteers, provides direct services like light housekeeping, basic maintenance, lawn care, pet walking and more to adults struggling to complete these tasks on their own.
On-site adult classes and social activities and off-site excursions are offered as a way for members to feel more engaged, enriched and connected in their community. “We went and saw the snow sculptures this year and the ice maze in Stillwater last year,” Presslein says.
Thrive memberships are open to anyone age 21 and older, including adults with disabilities. While two of their membership options come with an annual fee, reduced cost or no-cost memberships are available, too. “This year, we have over 200 members, but we see several hundred people throughout the year,” Presslein says.
One of the main concerns for the St. Croix Valley (and the nation as a whole) is how to best respond to the growing population of older adults. The United States Census Bureau projects that the nation will reach a new milestone in 2034, when the number of senior citizens will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history. Experts point to Americans having fewer kids, the baby boom of the 1950s and 1960s and longer life expectancy as factors.
“People are moving into Washington County, western Wisconsin, all along the Valley for retirement from other communities in the Metro. How are we going to serve that growing population?” Presslein says.
At Community Thread, it’s volunteers who keep the mission of care and service alive. The nonprofit is always in need of more helping hands, particularly from those with specialized skills. Presslein says they’re always in need of drivers, home helpers and folks who are willing to help their neighbors on a flexible basis. Currently, the organization is also looking for volunteers to teach Spanish and American Sign Language classes.
“When a request comes in, if you match the request, if you can do it, you do it. If it turns out it’s something you can’t commit to, don’t worry about it. You could volunteer just once a month,” Presslein says.
Community Thread has about 20 to 30 volunteers on its roster who’ve gone through background checks and have received proper training. “We want to make sure our volunteers are good people, good neighbors, just ready to help,” Presslein says.