Phyllis Cooper has lived an exciting, adventurous life, always working hard and finding ways to connect with those around her. Phyllis is an adventurer: she was in the Marine Corps for two years during her career, married a fellow Marine, and has travelled to far-off places like Hawaii. Now, she calls Hamilton home and, with a variety of care services from the Community First Solutions network, she lives in the same home she’s occupied for 22 years.

She first went to the Council on Aging and was paired with Tracy Conover, who works as an Independent Living Assistance companion with Partners in Prime. Phyllis and Tracy share a close bond as they speak frequently.

Tracy found me, and she got me set up. She’s wonderful, God blessed me when He sent her to me. You all need to clone her!

Tracy’s understanding of the various services that could help Phyllis in her home combined with her relationship-focused approach to create great opportunities. While Community First connected Phyllis to resources like housing assistance, a weekly cleaning service, Meals on Wheels, and heating assistance, what came from these services was so much more.

For instance, Tracy knew that Phyllis wanted to stay physically active, but her long walks of the past weren’t as feasible as before. She connected her to Elements Wellness Center, and Phyllis attends chair yoga and SilverSneakers Classic classes every week now.

Everyone there is so down-to-earth; what I like is that everyone is so friendly and nice, polite and considerate.

Phyllis loves working with the trainers at Elements, but she discovered another unexpected joy when she learned that Colonial School is also located on the Westover campus.

“When I first started there, I saw the little kids going to the swimming pool at Elements, and one little boy said, ‘do you want to go with me?’ and I said, ‘they have kids here too?’” Phyllis laughed. “I thought that it was really great to integrate young people with older people. Once I was just finishing up an exercise class and the little kids came through on Animal Day, and some of the animals were bigger than they were. They were so cute and smiling!”

Getting to Elements is possible through her connection to FLEET transportation services; the drivers are kind and punctual, she says. She’s formed a close connection with the woman who cleans her house once a week as well.

“I’m very independent; my cleaner works with me on making sure this is a safe space, while keeping me moving through some of the tasks I do myself,” she says. “Before Tracy, I didn’t realize there were these services available, I didn’t know about all this at all. I’ve worked very hard all my life, and I appreciate everything I have.”

Phyllis has a partial vision impairment, and when the opportunity came from the Veterans Administration to go to school in the Cleveland area and learn new strategies for living independently with vision impairment, she took the opportunity to travel and learn.

“They kept me an extra two weeks, saying they wanted to teach me the computer, and I said ‘What!? I’m still learning my phone!’” Phyllis said with a laugh. “They said that learning it would help me stay in my home longer, since people do better in their own surroundings. With the computer, I can make appointments, see my medications, that kind of thing.”

Even with all that she can do on her own, Phyllis draws on the community she’s formed through Tracy for the little things where we all need help.

“With my vision, it’s nice to have someone to help out checking over my work to make sure my bills are all correctly paid, since I can mistake a 5 for an 8 and such,” says Phyllis.

In turn, Phyllis uses her time to support those around her. She creates handmade blankets for local children to ensure they have a warm comforting object with them through life’s twists and turns. 

I’m very thankful and blessed that I have everyone in my life. It’s not just help; it’s people who are caring about me. That’s important; I wish everyone could feel that way.