Shovelers for Seniors in Short Supply

Sept. 28, 2009

The onset of autumn is a reminder that falling leaves will be followed soon by falling snow. Perhaps few people are as aware of this right now as Mark Peters, the director of Cudahy-St. Francis Interfaith. Coordinating Interfaith's snow shoveling program for seniors was the first task Peters faced upon his arrival here last October, and this year the task will be a bit more daunting.


For ten years, CSF Interfaith has received funding from the city of Cudahy to pay minimum wage to students from the local middle and high school, who are assigned to frail seniors who have no one else to shovel for them. (St. Francis residents are not so lucky – unless Interfaith can find a volunteer for them, there are no funds to pay for shovelers there.)


There was just one problem, Peters discovered last year. Apparently, no one had ever told Interfaith that work permits were required for the student workers. When a parent asked, Peters checked with the state and started having the families of the students apply for work permits at Cudahy High School. That's when he learned that you must be 14 to get a work permit. Unfortunately, most of the students who were interested in shoveling gigs were 12 or 13. “They are so enthusiastic about having their first paying job,” said Peters, “and compared to those 16 or older, tend to be more reliable as well, although they sometimes need help from their parents with the really big Wisconsin storms.”


By the time he had to drop the younger workers, the biggest storms were done last year. But this winter, he's going into the season knowing he can use only 14 year olds and up. It has him concerned, because even before, it was a challenge to find enough student shovelers for every household that needed shoveling. “This year, we not only need to find more older student workers, but may perhaps even need to consider hiring adults.”


In the meantime, he has asked State Senator Jeff Plale's office to help get an exception to the 14 year old requirement, and a bill has been drafted that would allow nonprofits to hire 12 and 13 year olds to help the elderly with things like shoveling and yard work without a permit. But it probably won't pass in time for this season. So Peters is putting out the word that help is needed. Anyone interested in earning $7.25/hour to shovel for seniors can call him at 483-4474. Volunteers are welcome as well.

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