“There’s no place like home”
40 Years of Senior Services
A brief history
Around 1970, a group of individuals formed a private, non-profit organization known as the Council on Aging with the specific purpose of taking advantage of the Older Americans Act. This Act was established in 1965 by Congress to help older people maintain maximum independence in their homes and communities and to promote a continuum of care for the vulnerable elderly. At the time, federal monies were readily available, but there had to be a local match of ten percent. The Council on Aging propositioned the County, but they were reluctant to participate, so they approached the City of Lexington and had success, and began to offer services to seniors in Davidson County who were 60 years of age and above with special emphasis placed on the socially and economically disadvantaged, low income minorities, and the frail elderly.
When the organization was private, they had to provide services, food, and pay workers before receiving funds. They billed the government and then they had to wait for reimbursement. Some of the staff had to make an arrangement with the bank to be responsible for costs, in the event that their funds did not cover the expenses.
During this time, the Council’s Assistant Director opened the first congregate nutrition sites. A facility on 4th Street and National Guard Armory hosted the Lexington sites and in Thomasville the site was located in the Batten Community Center on Trinity Street Extension. Sometime in 1978, the Council on Aging secured the first Senior Center with funds to remodel a building on East Center Street in Lexington, creating space for activities.
In 1980, due to the cost of renting and maintaining the East Center Street facility, the Council approached the Davidson County Board of Commissioners requesting that the county appropriate funds and a facility for services to continue. The commissioners were receptive and voted that the former Health Department building, located at 935 North Main Street in Lexington, be utilized for the Davidson County Council on Aging. The Commissioners also appropriated funds to add a multi-purpose room, allowing the facility to become a full Senior Center. The Fourth Street Congregate Nutrition Site also moved to the new facility. In 1983, the Davidson County Council on Aging changed their name to Davidson County Senior Services.
In 1994, the county purchased the Old Colonial Drive School in Thomasville as a facility to use for government services including a senior center. The Thomasville Senior Services office opened in August 1995. Soon after, the Thomasville Congregate Nutrition Site moved to the new facility. In October 2001, Senior Services, Lexington relocated to 106 Alma Owens Drive after receiving a grant to renovate the former county garage into an 8,472 square foot facility.
With a growing aging population it was not long before the department began experiencing a shortage of facility space for operations. In 2008, commissioners approved for the county to purchase the vacated, Davidson Academy property to house Senior Services, Parks and Recreation, and Davidson Works. Senior Services, Lexington relocated in June 2010 to the current location at 555 West Center Street Extension.
Senior Services is the lead agency for all local aging programs and is unique because it
serves as a “one-stop shop” resource for well-to-frail older adults. Seniors can take advantage of activities beginning at age 55 and, if eligible, have access nutrition and health services at age 60. In short, the agency’s mission is to support older and disabled adults by offering an array of programs and services to give them independence and the ability to stay in their own homes.
The two Senior Centers are open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. These centers house nutrition sites which serve a nutritious noonday meal, provide fitness rooms and equipment, and are the sites for a variety of activities and classes on a daily basis. Both centers have been accredited “Centers of Excellence” since 2000. There are three additional nutrition sites in Welcome, Southmont, and Denton. Information and referral specialists provide a central access point to answer questions and give information about community resources for the elderly, as well as follow-up activities to ensure that the needs of individuals are being met.
For homebound seniors or those at risk for nursing home placement, the nutrition program operates 23 Home-Delivered Meals routes and the Community Alternative Program is designed to benefit disabled adults over the age of 18. In addition, the In-Home Services Program provides trained certified nursing assistants to support older adults who need help with home management, personal care or respite care. This enables the individual or family to function effectively and remain at home longer versus premature placement in an assisted living facility. Finally, Senior Services offers ever-expanding transportation and counseling programs to keep local older adults feeling independent, involved, and informed.
Celebrating a milestone
The theme for the anniversary of Senior Services is “There’s no place like home” because it truly is a second home and thriving community of hope for all individuals age 55 and older.
“Senior Services’ 40th anniversary is a tremendous milestone for the agency. Over the past forty years, we have grown and developed into the lead agency for services in Davidson County and as a model agency for other NC counties,” stated Thessia Everhart-Roberts, Senior Services Director. “I’m immensely proud to be leading a team of people who strive to be their professional best and provide unsurpassed services for our customers. Senior Services is committed to making sure its present and future clients continue to receive the same quality of services they have received over the past 40 years.”
Earlier this year, open house events and ribbon cutting ceremonies at both senior centers provided an opportunity for local residents to get a glimpse inside the agency and at how local community support has helped the department to continually grow from a small nonprofit in the 1970s to its current standing as an example for other counties. Throughout 2015, Senior Services will host a number of special events to celebrate 40 years of service to county residents as well as a progressive outlook for the agency in serving the community for years to come. Previous anniversary events included an “Oldie-Wed” dinner, a float in the Welcome Easter parade, and a volunteer appreciation banquet during National Volunteer Week.
In 2014, Senior Services staff worked diligently to organize a history album that contains news clippings, photos, stories, awards, and other items that display agency growth and changes in personnel, facilities, programs and services. The book is exhibited ongoing at Senior Services in Lexington.
Continuing the festivities, a breakfast and yard sale fundraiser will occur on May 16 from 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Lexington Senior Center. A Dodge Ball Tournament is scheduled for June 23 at 6:00 p.m. at the Davidson County Parks & Recreation Gym, and a Fall Festival will take place on October 17 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Davidson County Government West Campus.
A need for volunteers
As the senior population of Davidson County grows and continues to live longer than past generations, the need for dedicated volunteers has become more apparent. Meaningful volunteer opportunities guarantee those in need of services will receive meals, wellbeing checks, transportation, counseling, education, recreation and socialization. Each qualified and skilled volunteer is crucial to making operations run smoothly and efficiently.
Currently, many Home-Delivered Meals routes suffer from a lack of enough volunteers to provide this crucial community need. Some volunteers, who may be seniors themselves, are over-extended on routes like Silver Valley, where the chairperson delivers up to eight times each month just to keep the route afloat. Once potential meal volunteers complete an application, they attend an orientation and receive plenty of training before they ever go out on their own. The meal deliverers have the option of taking a regular day once or twice per month or they can sub on the route when needed. Clients on the newest route, Noahtown, receive five frozen meals once per week due to a lack of volunteers able to deliver hot meals on a daily basis. Other routes, including Denton, Hasty, Pilgrim, Pilot, Reedy Creek, Wallburg, and West Lexington, are also in desperate need for new volunteers.
Looking to the future
Senior Services is fortunate to have an experienced director and professional staff. As a model agency, and with the full support of the county commissioners and county administration, Davidson County Senior Services is well-positioned to serve the incoming generation of “Baby Boomers” for years to come.
For more information about senior services, upcoming events or volunteering, please call the Lexington center at 242-2290 or the Thomasville center at 474-2754.