Local demand for senior services climbs

Thursday, July 31, 2008
Members of the 2008-09 Barry County Council on Aging Board are pictured above along with other area senior citizens representatives. In the front row, from left, are: Linda Parker, Cassville Senior Center administrator; Martha Buessing, Shell Knob Senior Center administrator; Thelma Hinton, board member; Sue Horn, in-home supervisor; Sylvia Sturgeon, board member; Sharon Madison, board secretary; and Marilyn Shepherd, board member. Back row: Fred Fazzini, board treasurer; Ben Loudermilk, board vice president; Richard Meyer, Southwest Missouri Office on Aging board member; and Ron Shook, board president. Absent from the photo are: Billie Bounous, Monett Senior Center administrator; Nadine Smith, board member; and Vickie Hohensee, board member.

More Barry County senior citizens than ever before are seeking services through the Barry County Council On Aging (BCCOA). Over 500 of these seniors were able to find the support they needed during the Council's fiscal year, which ended June 30.

According to Ron Shook, BCCOA president, the Council partners with local senior citizen centers to provide services, which are funded in large part through $150,000 in revenue received from the Barry County Senior Citizens' Services tax.

"The county council's goal is to make nutritional meals and in-home services available to area seniors who rely on these services to stay in their homes," said Shook.

In addition to tax funding, the Council also received a $38,753 grant from the Southwest Missouri Office On Aging during the fiscal year. This funding was used to support home-delivered meals, homemaker services and Good Neighbor transportation.

Clients also contributed to the Council's effort, accounting for $18,435 in additional revenue that was used to help sustain county programs for seniors.

This past week, BCCOA officials released a year-end report that outlined the services it provided from July 1, 2007, through June 30 of this year.

During this time period, over 90,500 meals were prepared in Barry County senior centers and delivered by volunteers to over 300 area seniors. This volume of meals represents a 25 percent increase over the previous year. Volunteers logged 56,130 miles to deliver the meals to homebound seniors.

Through BCCOA, over 200 seniors received in-home services that ranged from homemaker services and caregiver assistance to personal care. To provide these services, the Council employs on supervisor and nine part-time employees.

BCCOA's "Good Neighbor Transportation" program continued operations last year with volunteer drivers travelling 9,868 miles to meet area seniors' transportation needs. This program is in addition to use of the OATS bus. BCCOA encourages area seniors to use OATS for their general transportation needs. The "Good Neighbor" program is used when medical or special transportation needs arise.

During this past year, BCCOA launched a new program that provides medical alert units to seniors. Currently, 35 medical alert units are in use across the county as a result of this program.

Looking ahead to the 2008-09 fiscal year, Shook sees some challenges on the horizon. At the latest BCCOA Board meeting, Shook talked about how the rising cost of gasoline could negatively impact the Council's ability to serve the senior citizen population of Barry County.

"Almost every service provided by the Council is received at the client's residence," said Shook. "This requires volunteer meal drivers and home workers to drive to each residence. As the cost of gasoline continues to increase, I am concerned that some programs may have to be modified or curtailed."

Last year, volunteers and employees drove 120,000 miles to provide services to area clients, and the Council paid approximately $48,000 in mileage reimbursement.

BCCOA is governed by a nine-member volunteer board. Current board members include: Shook, president; Ben Loudermilk, vice president; Fred Fazzini, treasurer; Sharon Madison, secretary; and Vickie Hohensee, Marilyn Shepherd, Nadine Smith, Thelma Hinton and Sylvia Sturgeon, board members.

Senior citizens who need assistance may call their area senior center. Phone numbers are as follows: Cassville Senior Center, 847-4510; Shell Knob Senior Center, 417-858-6952; and Monett Senior Center, 417-235-6952.

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