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How to prepare for emergencies with a ‘plan in a can’
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Wisdom Project 2030 is working with the Northeast Georgia Health System on "Plan in a Can" which uses discarded tennis ball cans for emergency kits that have medical information stored inside. First responders are being trained to look for the kits. - photo by Scott Rogers

A local group is saving plastic and preparing for emergencies by repurposing tennis ball cans to create a “Plan in a Can.”

The cans can be used to store information about a person’s medical history, prescriptions and allergies, along with supplies like glasses that people may want if they have to go to the hospital on short notice. A first responder can grab the can on the way to the hospital, allowing health care providers early access to the information they need to treat a patient.

“Plan in a Can” is an initiative of Wisdom Project 2030, a group of people 55 and over who complete the program, housed in Vision 2030. The “Wisdom Keepers” learn about all aspects of life in Hall, including health care, education and government. They are working with the Northeast Georgia Health System on the “Plan in a Can” program, which is also overseen by the Wisdom Project 2030 Board of Directors.

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Duane Schlereth fastens a sign to a recycling bin Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, at the City Park tennis courts for players to toss their old tennis ball cans. Wisdom Project 2030 is working with the Northeast Georgia Health System on "Plan in a Can" which uses the discarded tennis ball cans for emergency kits that have medical information stored inside. First responders are being trained to look for the kits. - photo by Scott Rogers

“I feel quite comfortable having one in my freezer, and if we had to call 911, everything you need is in there — everything about my medical history, prescriptions I take,” Linda Stacy, the program’s co-chair, said.

Dr. James Kruer presented the idea to the Wisdom Project in September 2018. It is modeled after a program at St. Mary Mercy Hospital in Livonia, Michigan. Stacy and co-chair Candace Hart submitted the project proposal in February, and the team has been working since then.

The Wisdom Keepers have driven about 300 miles around Hall County collecting cans from tennis tournaments and bins at courts.

Duane Schlereth, the “Plan in a Can” recycling coordinator, said the team has been able to split up can pick-up duties and has had some luck getting cans at tennis tournaments.

The Wisdom Keepers have gone to Myrtle Terraces, a senior community in Gainesville, and Christ Lutheran Church in Oakwood to educate about the program. They hope to continue reaching out to the community, and collecting cans has been keeping them busy.

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Duane Schlereth walks through City Park Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, at the tennis courts looking for discarded tennis ball cans. Wisdom Project 2030 is working with the Northeast Georgia Health System on "Plan in a Can" which uses the discarded cans for emergency kits that have medical information stored inside. First responders are being trained to look for the kits. - photo by Scott Rogers

“My house, in one bedroom, has 260 cans in boxes. My basement has several hundred cans completed,” Stacy said. “It’s a pretty cool project with a lot of people working hard on it.”

The project also matches up with the goal of NGHS’ Respecting Choices initiative, which encourages people to have a health care plan in case they become seriously ill. Libby Dunahoo, the manager of Respecting Choices, said it’s about finding out what the patient wants, rather than telling them what to do.

Having a “Plan in a Can” helps people plan ahead for health care emergencies and start discussions about the care they may want, Dunahoo said.

“We’re talking about empowering people to have their voice, and this becomes a very practical way to have that with you, even if you’re not conscious and you do have to call (Emergency Medical Services),” Dunahoo said.

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Duane Schlereth walks through City Park Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, at the tennis courts looking for discarded tennis ball cans. Wisdom Project 2030 is working with the Northeast Georgia Health System on "Plan in a Can" which uses the discarded cans for emergency kits that have medical information stored inside. First responders are being trained to look for the kits. - photo by Scott Rogers

It’s recommended that people keep their can on top of their refrigerator or inside their freezer so it is easy for a first responder to locate.

“People can have a TV in a different location or a bedside table in a different location and it’s something somebody would search for, but everyone has a refrigerator. It’s a central location,” Dunahoo said.

The program’s major need currently is tennis ball cans. Several tennis courts in Hall have special bins for “Plan in a Can,” including at City Park, Longwood Park, Sterling on the Lake, Hog Mountain Sports Complex and Sardis Sports Complex.

To get a can or schedule a presentation about “Plan in a Can,” contact Dunahoo at libby.dunahoo@nghs.com.


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