In 1983 Bonnie Williams, daughter of respected Maryville resident Inez Bowman, told her mother about an emergency response system that was available in the hospital in Iowa City. She thought her mother might be interested in the program. Inez was intrigued by the concept and brought it to the Maryville Citizens for Community Action (MCCA) for consideration. The MCCA Human Resources Task Force thought it warranted further investigation and approached St. Francis Hospital to see if they would be interested in establishing the program. The Hospital had already heard of the program and they were considering it.
A committee including Martin Goedken from St. Francis, Mildred Davis, Inez Bowman and Donna Holt traveled to St. Joseph to talk to the Lifeline volunteer coordinator to see how their organization operated. After this meeting the St. Francis Hospital administration decided that the funds were not available to buy the units necessary to begin the program. Undaunted, a group of individuals decided to undertake the program.
Frank Strong volunteered to help file the articles of incorporation that were signed by Inez Bowman as vice president, Bob Bush as president and Donna Holt as treasurer. On May 11, 1984, the Health Emergency Lifeline Program (HELP) became a not-for-profit corporation. A federal tax number was issued to the new organization on October 18, 1984. The all-volunteer organization known as, the Health Emergency Lifeline Program, Inc. was born.
The first contract with Lifeline Systems, Inc. whose home office is in Massachusetts was signed on June 29, 1984. The units and new response center were shipped and the first installation was set up for Wednesday, August 22, 1984 at 11:00 a.m. for Florence Zimmerman. It was quite a media event with KQTV and local media attending.
Funding to start the program came from two large donations. The St. Francis Hospital Auxiliary donated $5,000 and the Business and Professional Women (BPW) donated $5,000 that had come to them from a bequest. Officers of HELP decided to lease the equipment rather than purchase it outright. This turns out to have been a wise decision since the program was instantly recognized as a worthy and desired service. HELP would not have been able to expand the program if the home units and response center had to be purchased. At that time individual units cost $495 and the response center $7,000.
Leasing has allowed HELP to stay current with the latest technology. The life of each lease is five years. When the time period for each lease is ended, HELP’s Executive Committee seeks approval from its Board of Directors to enter a new lease for the same number, a lesser number or a greater number of units. That decision is driven by whether there are a number of names on the waiting list. With over 150 units in service in 2008, the program continues to be a valuable resource for Nodaway County community members and those living in the surrounding area whose doctors utilize St. Francis Hospital and Health Services. In the summer of 2004, the volunteers who operate the program were happy to celebrate 20 years of dedicated service and caring for their neighbors through the Health Emergency Lifeline Program. That quality service continues to this day.
· 1983 – Inez Bowman brought the idea of Lifeline to the attention of the community group known as the “Maryville Citizens for Community Action.”
· May 1984 – Health Emergency Lifeline Program, Inc. was officially incorporated.
· Formed as a not-for-profit, all-volunteer organization in the St. Francis Hospital service region.
· The program is site monitored with all units leased.
· The first 12 units were installed in August 1984.
· March of 1986, the founder of Lifeline Systems, Inc., Dr. Andrew Dibner, visited Maryville.
· The Health Emergency Lifeline Program received a grant from Lifeline Systems (through the efforts of Dr. Dibner) in the amount of $4,000 for writing a “manual” entitled, “Forming an All-Volunteer Lifeline Program” which was submitted in December 1986.
· In 1987 Bob Bush, first HELP president, served on the planning committee for the Lifeline Systems national conference held in Kansas City, Missouri.
· HELP has grown to over 150 leased units; leasing allows the program to offer the most up-to-date technology to its subscribers.
· St. Francis Hospital and Health Services provides personnel to monitor the RC500 response unit, free of charge to the program 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.
· A number of volunteers who began with the program are still actively involved.
· The monthly lease cost to subscribers is reasonable and considerably less than similar programs operated through the United States. Installation and site monitoring is free. Only the lease and minimal administrative costs are included in the monthly fee. Keeping costs low is an important feature of the HELP program.
· HELP has consistently received funding from the local United Way and various service groups throughout the county to provide units to subscribers with modest means.
· Lifeline Systems, Inc. became a division of the Philip Company early in the 21st Century.
· HELP has been with Lifeline for over two decades of its history.