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Non-profit hopes to touch lives of senior citizens

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By Meaghan Downs

Lexington resident Greg Dearinger began a non-profit after reading a statistic — the leading cause of death after the age of 62 is from falls.
Dearinger, born and raised in Anderson County, had been working on a research paper for his social work course at Bluegrass Community and Technical College.
The statistic shocked him, he said, because he knew those deaths were most likely preventable.
“I would have thought it was heart disease, old age, pneumonia,” Dearinger, who has one more semester before completing his associate’s degree in arts and sciences, said. “The hospitalizations didn’t shock me as much as the death rate.”
T.O.U.C.H., or Treasuring Our Underprivileged Citizens with Heart, formed in mid-August, and its goal is to provide simple solutions like winterizing homes, installing safety railings and ramps, and checking for faulty wiring for Kentucky senior citizens unable to do so themselves.
Dearinger, who retired four years ago from his job as an overall handyman, said he was spending his own time and money post-retirement helping senior citizens with simple home repairs.
Now he and several board members in the Lexington and Lawrenceburg areas serve more than 20 Kentucky counties through the T.O.U.C.H. non-profit organization, based in Anderson County.
T.O.U.C.H. has assisted elderly citizens like a Lexington woman Dearinger met a few weeks ago, whose third step was missing on her front stoop. According to Dearinger,  she had to haul herself over the gap in the stairs every time she stepped outside.
“You can tell on her arms, you could see some bruising and tiny abrasions,” Dearinger said, adding he repaired the woman’s step in about a half hour.  
In addition to safety repairs, Dearinger said T.O.U.C.H. will offer to tour senior citizens’ home on the look out for hazards that could prove problematic.
“If anybody has a concern for a senior citizen’s home being unsafe, we’ll walk through and check it out to reduce the safety hazards,” Dearinger said.  
The group is currently working on an application for 501 (c)(3) non-profit status and a volunteer grant writer will begin the grant writing and application process, Dearinger said. T.O.U.C.H. plans on hosting its first fundraiser on Oct. 20 at Southland Bowling.
What makes T.O.U.C.H. different from other programs that assist elderly citizens?
“It’s more personal,” T.O.U.C.H. board member Lynn Rucker said of the organization while a safety railing was installed at an elderly couple’s home last Thursday. “It’s people in the community coming together to help others.”
Tonia Addison, assistant executive director of the group, agreed.
“I think there’s a lot of disadvantaged people, whether elderly or not that can benefit from this rather than government entities,” she said. “It’s not just about fixing homes; it’s about touching lives.”

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About T.O.U.C.H.
T.O.U.C.H. offers several other programs in addition to updating senior citizens’ homes for safety:
Elderly Companions: Organizers send out two volunteers at least once a week to visit elderly that doesn’t get many visitors, Dearinger said. Participants fix meals, read books, and other tasks.
Uniting Generations: T.O.U.C.H. provides a support group for grandparents raising grandkids, but participants can be any family member, Dearinger said. The first monthly meeting will be held Oct. 26 at 5:30 p.m. at Ninevah Christian Church in Lawrenceburg.
Insulating Homes and Warming Hearts: This is a winterizing program for low-income elderly and disadvantaged citizens offered by T.O.U.C.H., Dearinger said.
Services include installing weather stripping, caulking windows, installing insulation, and other fix-ups to prepare for winter.
If interested in receiving services from T.O.U.C.H., they will be accepting applications through e-mail at TreasuredHearts04@gmail.com or call Dearinger at 859-317-9394, Tonia Addison at 502-542-8298 or visit the group’s soon-to-be launched website at www.touchky.com.

Bowling fundraiser for T.O.U.C.H.
T.O.U.C.H. will host a Family Fun Day fundraiser on Oct. 21 from 2-4 p.m. at Southland Bowling, located at 205 Southland Drive in Lexington.
The cost is $12, which covers two hours of bowling and shoe rental. There will also be door prizes.
For tickets, contact Greg Dearinger at 859-317-9394 or e-mail T.O.U.C.H. at TreasuredHearts04@gmail.com or visit the group’s Facebook page at “T.O.U.C.H. (Treasuring Our Underprivileged Citizens with Heart).”