The Darien Times is introducing a new monthly column for 2019, highlighting a person who plays an important role in town and in the community. Featured individuals will talk about what they do and why they do it, as well as share some fun things about themselves.
If there is someone in town who you would like to recommend for a Spotlight, send an email to sfox@darientimes.com.
Gina Blum has been executive director of At Home in Darien since 2011.
At Home in Darien is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to improve the lives of seniors, and enable them to live in their own homes for as long as possible.
“We provide free services, education on health and wellness, referrals to vetted service providers, and communication on events,” said Blum, a Stamford resident.
Blum’s job is to help spread the word about what At Home does, “so that we can encourage people to take advantage of our services and support us,” she said.
At Home in Darien is supported by donors and grants.
There are just over 3,000 seniors age 60 and over in Darien, according to Blum. “We have people in five different decades of their lives who are involved with us, in one way or another,” she said.
“We are an aging-in-place organization,” Blum said, adding that it’s a national trend to keep seniors in their homes as they age.
“Ninety percent of seniors nationally and in Darien tell us that is what they want to do,” Blum said. “It’s where people want to be because they are surrounded by their memories and their community.”
At Home in Darien also provides transportation services to its members.
“We have paid professional drivers who provide rides on weekdays,” Blum said. “We take them wherever they want to go throughout Darien, Stamford, Norwalk, and New Canaan.”
At Home also has volunteers accompany seniors to appointments, visit them at home, and take them grocery shopping.
“We work with a whole bunch of community groups and high school students,” Blum said. “Every fall, we do leaf raking of people yards and snow shoveling of public sidewalks.”
At Home also sends a skilled expert to conduct home safety evaluations.
It collaborates closely with the Darien Senior Center, compiling a monthly calendar of events to share with its members.
“Our goal is to make people aware of what's happening,” Blum said. “We want people to know they are part of the community.”
Helping people
Blum said she first became interested in helping people when she joined a nonprofit volunteer women’s organization called the Junior league of Stamford-Norwalk.
The Junior League works to develop the potential of women and improve the community.
“Helping people is what really sold me,” Blum said, adding that she is still a member of the Junior League. “It's so rewarding to be able to make a difference in someone’s life.”
She also became involved in Collaborative Alliance, an organization — which no longer exists — that helped nonprofits in Fairfield County network and collaborate on resources.
“I loved learning about different nonprofits and what each of them did,” Blum said.
Yet, when she took a job as assistant to the executive director at the Stamford Senior Center, she first realized how much she loves working with seniors.
“I enjoy building relationships with seniors. They always have so much to share,” Blum said. “I enjoy hearing their perspectives, feel that I gain deeper wisdom, and take away a more profound appreciation for life and relationships.”
“We truly make a difference in people's lives, and I am very proud to be able to do such meaningful and rewarding work,” Blum said.
At home with Gina
Blum is from Greenwich and moved to Stamford in 1993. She has a bachelor’s degree in art history from Trinity College in Harford. She and her husband David have three children, ages 15 to 21. David is owner of BPD Express, a point-of-purchase design and production company.
She said something that many people may not know about her is that she is “fanatic” about tennis and paddle tennis.
She started playing tennis after college. “I lived really close to some tennis courts,” Blum said. “We used to goof around over there and once I had a job, I started taking tennis lessons.”
Blum now plays tennis at the Italian Center (IC) in Stamford.
She always play doubles. “I just love the team camaraderie and I love the exercise,” she said.
She became a member of the USTA (United States Tennis Association), and competes on teams.
In 2015, she competed in a national tennis competition in Palm Springs, Calif., and won a trophy. “I felt that was the culmination of my tennis life,” Blum said.
Four years ago, Blum started playing paddle tennis, “which I find I love even more than tennis,” she said.
Paddle tennis differs from tennis in that it’s played on a screened raised court. Also, it’s more “social” and “casual” than tennis, Blum said.
The court is smaller and allows players to be more engaged with their opponents and partner, according to Blum.
“What I love about paddle tennis is you can play outdoors, all year,” she said. “It's awesome to be able to enjoy the outdoors in the winter because you work up a sweat.”
Blum plays paddle tennis three times a week in the Fairfield County Women's Platform Tennis League, through the IC.
“I’m obsessed,” Blum said, adding that tennis is a “lifetime sport.”
sfox@darientimes.com