Open house an opportunity for engagement, education

Michelle Vlasak
April 11, 2022 / 5 mins read

An open house served as a way to teach others more about the Neighbors Helping Neighbors service and also was a way to recognize its volunteers.

People from all backgrounds: Buckham West staff, Family Service Rochester/Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN) staff, seniors who use the services NHN provides, those who volunteer with NHN to offer said services, supporters and people interested in learning more about NHN gathered Wednesday.

Family Service Rochester’s NHN program provides chore services to people who are over 60 years old or have a disability. The program aims to help them live independently in their home.

In addition to enjoying conversation and treats, attendees heard a few words from representatives with Family Service Rochester, Buckham West and the city of Faribault.

Anne Pleskonko welcomes attendees of Wednesday’s Neighbors Helping Neighbors open house. Pleskonko serves as the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Senior Service Coordinator in Rice County. Her office is in the Buckham West Senior Center. (Michelle Vlasak/

Anne Pleskonko, senior service coordinator for the NHN program in Rice County, welcomed attendees and sang praises to Family Service Rochester and Buckham West.

Family Service Rochester Executive Director Scott Maloney shared some information about the agency’s history and said one of its focuses is on senior independence. The NHN program first began in Rochester, and Maloney said he “couldn’t be more pleased” with the partnership in Rice County and the hiring of Pleskonko.

Recalling one of the first conversations with Family Service Rochester about implementing this new program in the area, Buckham West Senior Center Executive Director Mona Kaiser said she was unsure people would understand its concept.

“Once they introduced the name, it made a lot more sense,” Kaiser said. “We all have the same goal, and we understand we don’t have the capability here to do that. At Buckham West, we find partners really well to do those extra things.”

Faribault Mayor Kevin Voracek praised the NHN program in Faribault and said it’s a good way to not only help the community, but also to meet neighbors.

“People of all ages can get out and help,” Voracek said. “I’m looking forward to how this program can impact the community.”

Family Service Rochester Program Supervisor Jackie Glynn thanked the volunteers. There about 20 volunteers signed up to help out in the Faribault area. Glynn said more volunteers are always welcome.

“The more volunteers we have, the more services we can offer,” Glynn said. “Anne meets with the seniors in their homes and gets them signed up, and Jennell [Loeffler, volunteer recruitment and retention specialist] helps match seniors up with volunteers.”

Family Service Rochester Program Supervisor Jackie Glynn explains different aspects of the Neighbors Helping Neighbors program to open house attendees Wednesday. (Michelle Vlasak/

Volunteers can volunteer to provide household chores, yard work and repairs. They also can volunteer to provide companionship.

Bruce Shaffer was part of the Friendship program for many years and said companionship is a big need for many people.

“It was a service we were happy to do,” Shaffer said. “It was so rewarding. You walk out of there just bouncing. They looked forward to it and met you right at the door.”

Though he hasn’t been able to be as involved as he would like due to various health reasons, Shaffer said he helps out NHN when he can.

Attendee Becky Iverson said she quit working in 2018 and since has taken on several volunteer opportunities. She is interested in becoming a more regular volunteer with NHN for companion visits.

“I am going on a cruise next month, but after May I would love to have a consistent companion,” Iverson said.

Cloutier said she was in need of someone to clean her home, because there were things she could not do on her own. She learned about the NHN program through the senior center, and she commended the capabilities of the program.

McHugo, too, sang praises to her volunteer who helps her clean.

“She does a wonderful job,” McHugo said.

Durand added: “It’s a great service.”

Reprinted from Faribault Daily News, April, 8, 2022 ©Copyright 2022 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved. Photo Credit: Michelle Vlasak/

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