RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Saturday's snow storm was the season's official start to an innovative program that offers Rutherford seniors help during the winter.
Shovel Our Seniors (SOS) matches senior residents with volunteer shovelers so their winter cleanup needs will be met anytime an inch or more of snow falls.
Ice melt is also provided and left at seniors' homes for volunteers to spread when conditions get icy.
SOS was initiated by Mayor Joseph DeSalvo and Councilman Mark O’Connor through the Mayor’s Wellness Program. It's being administered by the Recreation Department.
"The program started last year as a pilot with just six or seven houses," said O’Connor. "This year we hope to expand it out all over town. We're still working out the kinks."
He said Saturday's storm had 16 seniors on the list, but they were able to get to 25, moving a few people off the waiting list.
"Ideally, we want to have a one-to-one match and match people who live near each other," O'Connor said.
The pilot program last year was launched in cooperation with volunteers from the high school, scouts and church groups. This year, volunteers are signing up directly through the recreation department.
O'Connor said more seniors are signing up and what they really need the most are volunteers.
Resident Joanna D’Avanzo signed her three sons up as volunteer shovelers and her son Owen Fernandez, 10, and friend Nic De Gennaro, 11, ended up doing two houses.
"I explained to my kids that it’s all about being helpful to one another and that it actually feels good to help someone else and think about others instead of themselves," said D’Avanzo, who noted she got an email from the borough about the program. "They were happy to do it."
The cost is free to seniors but in the future, O'Connor said there may be a nominal membership fee to offset the cost of ice melt.
"The seniors we spoke to were fine with that. But there's no cost now," he said, adding there will be a gathering at the end of the season to thank all of the volunteers.
Anyone who needs more information can call the recreation department, 201-460-3015.