Although Mary Milliner never drove a car, she prided herself on being able to get around town by foot.
“I never had any problem,” she said.
More recently, the longtime Hornell resident has endured a stroke, a broken ankle and deterioration of the bones, and now requires a walker.
Fortunately for Milliner, her needs continue to be met thanks to a valuable volunteer group — Faith in Action.
“If it wasn’t for them, I couldn’t do anything,” Milliner said, stating that Faith in Action enables her, as well as her husband, Calvin — who also has limited physical ability — to remain in their house.
Faith in Action, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, is a collaborative ecumenical effort by several churches in the western Steuben County area. Formerly known as the Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers Program, the service assists frail, elderly and/or disabled adults so that they may continue living independently.
“I think I can empathize, because who knows when I’m going to be in this position?” said Betty Arcangeli, a longtime Faith in Action volunteer. “When one can no longer drive, you just lose your independence. It’s very hard.”
According to Arcangeli, services provided by Faith in Action include “friendly visits, telephone reassurance, shopping, light housework and yard work — but the greatest need is for transportation, especially for medical appointments. Last year we logged over 40,000 miles and over 4,500 hours, serving 250 recipients.”
Most Faith in Action members are church-based, with a volunteer coordinator at each church. Arcangeli, who serves in that role for St. Ann’s Church in Hornell, noted that other worship sites in Our Lady of the Valley Parish (St. Ignatius Loyola in Hornell, St. Joachim in Canisteo and St. Mary in Rexville) are involved with Faith in Action as well.
“Our base covers western Steuben County and eastern Allegany County in the Diocese of Buffalo, but we transport people quite some distances for medical purposes,” Arcangeli said, adding that volunteers are reimbursed when they have extensive miles to drive.
The program was formed in 1995 through the leadership efforts of Mercy Sister Mary Augustine Malley, who then served as chaplain at St. James Mercy Hospital.
“She was concerned with needs of patients who were discharged but still couldn’t get out on their own for some time. As the program developed, we found so many elderly, especially widows, who were quite helpless when no longer able to drive,” Arcangeli said, noting that the need is greatest during daytime hours. “There may be family available, but they’re working … the doctors rely on us.”
For many years the Faith in Action office was located at First Baptist Church; it recently relocated to 20 Broadway under its current director, Richard Russell. The office operates rent-free in a house owned by the City of Hornell.
“The city is very supportive,” Arcangeli said.
A ribbon-cutting for the new facility took place April 18 — one of several 10th-anniversary events to take place this year.
Funding for Faith in Action is obtained through grants from churches, the government, civic organizations and private donations.
“People are very sympathetic to this cause,” Arcangeli remarked.
Volunteers provide lifts not only with their vehicles, but also in the spiritual sense. For instance, Milliner has developed a friendship with Josephine Ciancaglini, a Faith in Action volunteer from Our Lady of the Valley who frequently shops for Milliner and also takes her on hospital and doctor visits. In addition, Ciancaglini recently compiled a telephone address book for Milliner.
“She’s very nice and goes out of her way,” Milliner said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For information about receiving assistance from Faith in Action, to volunteer or to make a donation, call Faith in Action at 607/324-1138.