Inflation provoking dire need for increased donations
By Autumn Gray
Silver Horizons has for nearly 45 years been committed to supporting Albuquerque area residents age 50 and older who are struggling to pay for basic needs. From help with groceries, to bills and everyday minor home repairs, the nonprofit serves as a reliable life vest that has helped keep thousands of New Mexicans afloat over the decades.
Specifically, Silver Horizons provides critical help to seniors in danger of having utilities shut off; those who otherwise would have to leave their homes because of changing health needs; and seniors who simply do not have enough food to eat.
The organization’s services are critical. New Mexico has among the highest percentage of seniors living in poverty, with 13.5 percent of seniors (ages 60+) identified as food insecure compared with a national average of 12 percent in the U.S., according to America’s Health Rankings. Further, about 60 percent of senior households that are served by New Mexico food banks are forced to choose between food and medical care.
Through its Senior Food Markets, Silver Horizons is working to end hunger among senior residents of Central New Mexico. The 100 percent self-serve markets provide about two-weeks’ worth of free groceries, including fresh produce, meat, dairy, toiletries, and pet food, for each household. These items are distributed primarily through drive-up/pickup markets, deliveries to senior living facilities, in-person shopping, and deliveries to homebound seniors.
Silver Horizons also receives 60-80 daily requests for help with important household bills, including electric, gas, internet, firewood/propane, telephone, water, and even basic veterinary bills.
The minor home repairs the organization conducts include work such as fixing a door lock or installing grab bars or a wheelchair ramp to improve their clients’ safety and standard of living.
“Our focus is on helping seniors who typically can afford their household bills, but due to some unusual circumstances, are having difficulty paying one particular bill,” said executive director Ron Hidalgo, who has led the organization for nine years.
For the most part, he said, the seniors served by the nonprofit never expected to need assistance. The people he sees and hears from worked hard most of their lives, saved money, maybe had investments. They had a sense of security until the unexpected happened. Perhaps a spouse died leaving the survivor in debt, or medical bills drained their savings.
Silver Horizon’s Thrift Smart thrift shop helps to fund the nonprofit’s services. More like a boutique than a traditional thrift outlet, all clothes are laundered before sale, furniture is oiled and repaired, and products are tested to be in working order.
“Whatever it is, you can take it from the store and use it immediately,” Hidalgo said, adding that Thrift Smart is an inexpensive alternative for holiday shopping, especially given price increases across the board. “It used to be eggs that everyone was talking about, but now everything is 40 percent higher than it was a year ago.”
Due to inflation, both Silver Horizons and the people it serves are struggling financially more than ever before. For example, where seniors often sought assistance with a utility bill of a few hundred dollars, they now ask for help covering bills in the thousands, Hidalgo said. Supplies to build a wheelchair ramp have risen from $350 to $1,600. On top of the economic landscape, donations from foundations and individuals are down.
“It’s outrageous,” Hidalgo said. “It’s not just the numbers of people needing help but the level at which they are needing help – the desperation. They’re drowning.
“And it’s the perfect storm because we have more people at our markets, at the same time that food is costing more. … I don’t want to be alarmist, but without more support from the community, we are at risk of not being around much longer.”
American General Media is answering Silver Horizons’ call for help with a Big Box of Love radio promotional for food donations for seniors. Through November 11, residents can pick up empty boxes from the American General Media office, 8009 Marble Ave. NE; the Thrift Smart store at 3100 San Mateo Blvd NE; and at Silver Horizons, 1913 Eubank NE. Once filled with nonperishable food items, the boxes can be dropped off at designated locations listed on the Silver Horizons website, https://www.silverhorizons.org/.
Radio personality Chaz Malibu of KABG 98.5 FM will also be hosting a fund drive, complete with fun giveaways, on November 18 at the Albertson’s at Coors and Montano. To participate, just drop a minimum of $20 in Chaz’s fish bowl.
To donate at any time, volunteer, or learn more about Senior Markets and other services, visit https://www.silverhorizons.org.