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Balancing is just part of her business

February 19, 2006|By CANDICE BOSELY

candiceb@herald-mail.com

Mary Fitz, 85, estimated she had not balanced her checkbook in months or possibly as long as a year, prompting her to call Sunshine Pockets, a new business that assists seniors.

Since then Sunshine Pockets owner Mary Wehr has balanced Fitz's checkbook - providing her with detailed information about her expenses - and helped to enroll her in Part D, Medicare's new prescription drug plan.

They've also bonded and went to lunch and grocery shopping together.

"She takes care of everything, body, mind and spirit," Fitz, of Maugansville, said one recent afternoon as she sat at her kitchen table.

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Wehr, 59, started Sunshine Pockets last November.

She organizes people's medical bills - filing medical claims, verifying payments and checking for double billing; does financial documents needed for Medicare, Medicaid and/or PACE; and ensures that monthly bills are paid on time. And she balances checkbooks.

She also can run errands, listens to clients who simply want to talk, will do prayers upon request and, as an ordained minister, can offer communion service.

The name of the business is derived from bright yellow folders that Wehr uses to hold each client's paperwork.

Wehr came up with the idea for the business after her father broke his hip and her mother found herself overwhelmed with a stack of confusing paperwork.

"There wasn't anybody that could help," she said. "I saw the need so I created the company."

She met with local agencies that assist senior citizens and joined the recently created Senior Resource Alliance, which offers contacts for senior citizens for a variety of needs.

"My prayer is the people who need me will find me," Wehr said.

Although she has advertised on a local radio station and was included in a newspaper advertisement by the Senior Resource Alliance, Wehr said she mostly is depending on word-of-mouth to grow her business.

She does not charge for a consultation visit. Afterward, she works on a sliding scale, but said that generally a visit costs a flat fee of $25, with no additional hourly charge.

"I never plan for my visits to be short. They're always open-ended in case someone has something they want to talk about," she said.

Although the company allows Wehr to know her clients' personal and financial information, she said her experience and background should allay any fears related to confidentiality.

In addition to being an ordained minister, Wehr worked as the secretary to the vice president of human relations at Washington County Hospital and worked as a customer service representative for a bank for 11 years.

Both jobs involved handling information of a confidential nature, she said.

She now works part time in Washington County Hospital's infection control department and is an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ.

"I see it as a ministry," Wehr said of Sunshine Pockets, "but I didn't put that word on the brochure (of the business) because I didn't want to make people feel that I'm out there evangelizing."

"My goal is to be a helper to anyone who needs that. My qualifications are varied and I think Sunshine Pockets can utilize them all."

Wehr, of Greencastle, Pa., can be reached at 1-717-593-9202.

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