Once a week, Camden resident Kathleen McConnell knows that Ann Feeney will be dropping by to check on her.

It’s a small but important comfort, a dependable routine, that the 78 year-old woman can rely on, through any kind of week, any kind of weather.

Feeney works with Camden Area District Nursing Association, which was formed in 1920 by local citizens to serve residents in Camden, Hope, Lincolnville and Rockport with nursing care. The model has worked well for the past century, providing the elderly or the chronically ill with at-home care so they can stay right where they want to be — at home.

“She does a good job,” said McConnell, smiling at Feeney, who had was busy checking her blood pressure and heart rate. at McConnell’s feet sat Liam, Feeney’s canine companion who goes on the job with Feeney and helps lighten every room they visit.

McConnell’s daughter, Mary, agreed.

“She comes in and checks on Mum’s medicines and pours them for the week,” she said. “Then she checks her blood pressure, listens to her heart and lungs, and makes sure everything is alright.”

The formula may sound simple, but the purpose is large: to serve the needs of those who fall through the funding cracks, those who have been denied services because they are not home bound, or classified by insurance as not having a need for skilled care.

The association’s motto: “providing nursing care to patients in their homes, regardless of ability to pay.”

Services rendered include help with bathing, injections, foot care and assistance with referrals to other agencies when necessary. The association also invites community members into the office, on the third floor of the Anderson Inn at Quarry Hill Retirement Community in Camden, for blood pressure checks, health assessments, weight checks and diet information.

Camden District Nursing Association revenues and expenditures are not grand — in 2008, the nonprofit received approximately $121,000 in grants and gifts, and then spent approximately $116,000. It has a small nest egg, trust funds established when the organization was founded, that provide a small and regular income stream, depending on the fluctuations of the investment market.

Its board of directors consists of local citizens, and its executive director, Feeney, is it one of the three nurses on the ground, visiting and healing patients.

That is the best part of the job, said Feeney, a career nurse who would not have it any other way.

“We keep people home safely and out of the nursing home,” she said.

Her caseload, with the help of Barbara Forti and Fran Sims, amounts to making approximately 200 visits a month to citizens like McConnell. In 2009, they made 2,438 visits to patients in the four towns.

Additionally, the association loans out free medical equipment, such as walkers and wheelchairs, and crutches.

The recession has made conditions more dire, with the patient load increasing while the number of patients who can pay is decreasing. With a sliding fee scale, some patients pay $25 per visit, others pay nothing, depending on ability. There is no reimbursement to the organization from the state or federal government, or insurance agencies, and the organization relies entirely on local funding, through donations, trusts and estates.

Every year, the association holds a letter drive to raise money, mailing to citizens in the area. They have also depended on annual donations approved by townspeople at annual town meeting, but those have shrunk, now that some selectmen choose not to put provider agencies requests on the warrant.

“It’s harder,” said Feeney.

But for her, it is the work that ultimately matters. Week in and week out, she packs her gear and Liam into the car, and heads out on the road.

“I wouldn’t be doing anything else,” she said.