For many residents, the weather is a mere nuisance, postponing outdoor plans and possibly causing power bills to be higher than expected. But for the city’s most vulnerable adults—seniors, particularly those who live alone—the unpredictable weather can cause real difficulties. As the seasons change, so do the needs of these members of the community.
Here are just a couple of examples of how the weather can affect our older residents: in a freezing downpour, taking the trash receptacle to the curb for pickup can become a frightening undertaking. At the other extreme, during the dog days of Summer, it’s vitally important to have working smoke detectors—especially in older homes—when one may have only an electric fan to rely on for some degree of relief from the heat.
What this population needs most of all, though, is a sense of security and the knowledge that someone is invested in their welfare. That is where Project CheckMate comes into play. The term “check mate,” as used in chess, signifies the end of a game with a clear winner and loser. Sumter’s Project CheckMate, however, results in winners on both sides.
In 2014, the Sumter Police Department, always committed to community service, expanded its “I’m Okay” senior call-in program to increase interaction between senior adults and law enforcement personnel. Following a severe ice storm that February which left many citizens without electricity for days, Chief of Police Russell Roark worked with City leaders to broaden the scope of the program.
It now includes:
- Regular in-home visits to registered participants, offering much-needed personal contact and making certain that the citizen’s needs are being met,
- Keeping emergency contact information up to date,
- Security surveys, along with suggestions on how to improve household safety and deter crime,
- Referrals to other agencies for needed services, and
- Minor tasks outside the regular scope of law enforcement, such as taking out the trash, replacing light bulbs and the batteries in smoke detectors, and even making minor household repairs such as fixing loose doorknobs.
Operating on the belief that a community’s strongest asset is its people, the City sees Project CheckMate as a key component in protecting the well-being of the vulnerable. It also fosters a sense of independence and restored dignity to those who might otherwise have difficulty in maintaining a household. Not only do most of the program’s approximately 30 residents live alone, many have no family in the immediate area. Senior Corporal Warren Davis, known throughout Sumter as “Papa G,” takes personal responsibility for seeing that these citizens are cared for. On those rare occasions when he is unavailable, other officers from the Community Services unit fill in as needed.
Project CheckMate has received awards from the Municipal Association of South Carolina and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Officers Association. It is fully funded through the generosity of private partners. The program can also serve physically handicapped residents of any age who need someone to check on them periodically.
There are numerous programs in the area that target senior citizens or the disadvantaged. The City of Sumter offers housing rehabilitation, sewer and water tap/replacement, Fair Housing education, and more through the Community Development office at (803) 774-1659.
Other community agencies that can help are:
- Sumter Senior Services, (803) 773-5508 and
- Sumter United Ministries, (803) 775-0757, along with many area churches.
- There is also a complete Elder Resource Guide available online in PDF at:
The Greek philosopher Aristotle stated that a society can be judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens. By this measure, Sumter is making great strides towards one more success story.
For more information on Project CheckMate, please contact the Sumter Police Department at (803) 436-2700 or visit www.sumterpd.com/about_community_action.php.
Watch a video on Project CheckMate, click here.