Vegas Voices is a weekly series highlighting notable Las Vegans.
In September 2014, Favil West learned of 38 instances where people died in the Sun City Anthem community and their bodies went undiscovered for three days to six weeks.
“A couple of them, I knew,” he says.
He found the news so shocking that he set out to create a program called HowRU (pronounced “how are you”), which now makes automated calls to about 100 seniors a day to check in and see how they are doing.
That’s just one of the services provided by the Foundation Assisting Seniors, the nonprofit organization that the 82-year-old retired military and commercial pilot founded 17 years ago.
We spoke with West about his time in Las Vegas, the FAS and how people can lend a hand.
Review-Journal: What brought you to Las Vegas originally?
Favil West: In 1957, when I was in college, a guy by the name of Ken Gragson, who was the son of the former Las Vegas mayor (Oran Gragson), was my roommate. And he brought me over here to visit. Then I went through fighter training here in the F-105. Then I did a special project for an airline here in ’91 or ’92. Then I retired here. And I’ve been here for going on 20 years now.
How did you get involved with the Foundation Assisting Seniors?
I’m one of two people who founded Foundation Assisting Seniors, with a guy by the name of Chuck Davis, who is since deceased. And we were talking about our parents and how hard it was to get medical equipment, wheelchairs and that sort of thing, in a small town. I came from Yuma, Arizona, and it was pretty hard to get stuff there in a timely manner. And when you need it, you need it. So … we decided to form the foundation. We started work in February 2002, and that year we served 360 people. Now we do over 20,000 assists a year.
Is it still difficult to get equipment in our valley?
Do people need to pay for assistance from your group?
We don’t even look at finance. We don’t care where you live, how much money you make. We don’t care about any of that. You need it, you want it, you get it.
There are cases here where the client may need it today. I’m getting out of the hospital today; I need something. If you’re going to get it through some other source, it’s probably going to take as much as two weeks, maybe even two months or three. With us, you’ll probably have it within 24 to 48 hours — sometimes even within minutes.
You keep a lot of equipment on hand. Is it predictable what you’ll get calls about? And if so, what are the recurring calls?
I would have said a year ago that it’s predictable. It’s not now. We don’t know who’s going into the hospital, who’s coming out of the hospital, what hospital they’re going into, and what their needs are when they come out. They may go to a place for rehab, and get partially rehabbed, and perhaps go from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane.
Last week we had no companion wheelchairs in stock. We have about 30 or 40 of them, but they were all out. So we were getting ready to buy some more when all of a sudden we got five in. We’ve had to buy a number of things because we’ve had them on the shelf for six months and they’ve never moved, then all of a sudden they’re all gone — shower stools, all kinds of things go.
Do you provide this equipment on a permanent basis or a temporary basis? Or does it vary?
It’s primarily temporary. A lot of people are going to get their equipment through Medicare. So typically we give them 90 days. But if they need more than that, we’ll give it to them.
What’s the most rewarding part of being involved with this?
Seeing the people who have a need, and then filling that need. And to have them just thank us.
We got a call from Henderson that said “We’ve got an individual out here, and she’s an older lady, and she needs a scooter.” Her husband had passed away and left her a Lincoln, but she didn’t have a driver’s license. She was one of those people who had never learned to drive. She was homebound — had been there three months since her husband passed away.
So we loaded up a scooter, and she loved it. The bus stop was about a block away, but she couldn’t walk that far. So when we got her this scooter she said, “I can drive up to the bus stop, and the nice man will load this up for me, and I can go to the mall and spend the day. You’re not the Foundation Assisting Seniors; you’re the foundation of angels.”
How can people help?
Every foundation needs volunteers. We need volunteers who are a little bit younger, who can help get this equipment out. Right now we’re delivering equipment, and the youngest guy is 60. The oldest guy is 85. So yeah, we could use volunteers. It’s not heavy — a maximum of 40 pounds.
(Visit the website at foundationassistingseniors.org.)
Getting to know: Favil West
Newest Vegas discovery?
Bootlegger Bistro on Monday night
Place you always take visitors?
Bellagio Conservatory and Hoover Dam
A promise made is a debt unpaid.
Favorite vacation destination?
Palm Desert, California
“America Before” by Graham Hancock
Never leave the house without?