Helping the Elderly One Call at a Time

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By Sam Jones
By Andy Shofstall

JOHNSON COUNTY -- The sheriff's department offers a life-saving service to seniors in the community. The initiative started by the county two decades ago connects seniors and deputies every morning.

Sheriff Elry Faulkner, who's been on the job for 40 years, says he's never stopped caring about the people he serves., so he's made it a mission to help elderly in the area.

“It does my heart good,” enthused Faulkner.

Thanks to the senior call in program, those who sign up phone into Johnson County dispatch between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. every day. If a call is missed, the department jumps into action.

“One of my deputies will be bothering you. They'll be knocking at your door,” Faulkner added.

Betty Deleonardo of Vienna appreciates the effort.

“It's just that calling in sort of starts my day,” Deleonardo said.

She's phoned in for a decade. Her relatives aren't nearby, so the sheriff and his department have become her second family.

“It gives me peace of mind when I call in every morning. I understand that if I've called in that they assume that I'm ok,” she explained.

Deputy David Stewart has led the program since its creation. His grandmother was even part of it.

“It's a way for us to give back to them and let them know ‘Hey you are still a very valuable part of the community’,” said Stewart.

He admits the program can't save everyone.

“It still hurts, it still hits home,” Stewart conceded. 

He was reminded of that when an elderly man was found dead after he accidentally fell into his well.  He wasn't found for days.

“I don't think there was a way we could've been able to save him, unfortunately,” said Stewart.

Instead, he and his colleagues find solace in those they have saved; survival stories that remind them how vital their efforts are.

The sheriff shared one woman's story.

“She had fell the night before and broke her hip and said ‘I knew if I could make it through the night that I knew you guys would be here today to check on me,’” Faulkner recalled.

The program has helped dozens of seniors over the years and authorities hope to reach even more. To sign up, just call the Johnson County Sheriff's Department at (618) 658-8264.

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