Hands On for Seniors: Jewell’s Story


Photos line the walls of the tidy home of Ms. Jewell Headlee. Photos from years long passed, she and her siblings, one of her now deceased son, and the loveliest photo of a toddler, Jewell herself.

On the table near the window sits a framed wedding photo of she and Mr. Headlee, he in his military uniform and she, looking star struck and in love. “We didn’t smile” said Jewell, “I think we must have been terrified.” Oh, but the smile is in your eyes I said to her and she nodded as she held the framed memory delicately in her withered hands. She smiled, “Yes, we were so happy.”

Jewell, 91, is one of the many senior citizens in Greene County who has received assistance through Hands On for Seniors, a United Way of the Ozarks initiative that helps Seniors maintain their homes and independence. The initiative, funded by the Greene County Senior Citizen Tax Fund, is modeled after the United Way Day of Caring and matches community volunteers with Seniors, like Jewell, to help them remain independent and self sufficient as long as possible.

“My body is shot, but at least I still have my mind,” said Jewell, as we sat visiting about her thankfulness for the volunteers, mowing and cleaning overgrown flowerbeds in the large yard of the home she has lived in for more than 37 years. When her husband passed away in 2010 he left her with his many flowers and shrubs. “He had a green thumb and loved to garden, but now I just can’t keep up with it,” Jewell explained.

Think about what $30 mean to you. It could be eating a meal at a restaurant, or perhaps it’s a date night at the movies with popcorn and soda. It costs $30 each time Ms. Headlee has to pay someone to mow her oversized lawn.  There is no extra money just lying around. It’s a stretch to put food on her plate and pay for the monthly expense of medications. She says it’s a matter of prioritizing and budgeting, but more often than not, the lawn must take backseat to her health and wellness. “These volunteers are just amazing to help lessen that burden this month,” Jewell stated.

As we wrapped up our conversation, Ms. Headlee shared with me that she has already begun thinking and planning for the inevitable; leaving her home and moving to an assisted living facility. “I just want to be the boss of myself as long as I can,” she said.  “There are days I think I’ll just give it up…but then, I’m kind of a fighter.” She knows it won’t be much longer that she can be “the boss” of herself, but I don’t doubt she will retain her spirit of independence for years to come.

To learn more about how you can volunteer with Hands On for Seniors, skip on over HERE.

About United Way of the Ozarks: United Way of the Ozarks is a locally governed, volunteer-driven organization whose Mission is to improve the lives of people in the Ozarks by uniting the community. United Way of the Ozarks funds over 45 programs and 15 community initiatives that address critical health and human service needs in 14 counties in southwest Missouri.