Speak Mind Bethel Senior Center

Date: Sun, 14 Mar 2004 10:17:40 -0900

Dear Newseditor,
I am the elected chair of the Bethel Senior Advisory Board. However, I am writing as a private citizen to inform the public about recent Senior Advisory Board issues.

The Senior Advisory Board (SAB) met for their regular meeting on March 9th 2004. Present were members Mary Gregory, Larry Howard, Sr., Julius Pleasant, Sr., David E. Trantham, Jr., Joan Hamilton, and myself as Chair. Also present was Louise Charles who works for the City of Bethel as Director of Senior Services and is therefore the ex officio (non-voting) member.

The Board was unable to take action at its last meeting. The SAB voted not to accept the Bethel City management’s agenda for the elder citizens of Bethel. The senior services director wrote an agenda that would not allow the SAB to discuss the senior discount for taxis, would not let the SAB discuss how to perform the grant review, and would not allow requested training from the City Clerk, Amanda Byington.

That evening, the City Council, in their regular meeting, revealed that the City has sought legal advice against the Senior Advisory Board from the City attorneys, Preston, Gates, Ellis, LLP.

The Senior Advisory Board is a volunteer citizen committee. Because the city receives funds for seniors under the Federal Older Americans Act, the City of Bethel is required to have citizen input. Members are appointed by the City Council to represent the concerns of older people to the City government and to meet the City’s grant responsibilities.

Despite this mandate, since May 2003, the City has not consulted with the Advisory Board about actions the City has taken, are taking, and will take that affect every person over 55 in Bethel (as well as those in the Delta who love them). As recently as January 21 and 22, 2004 Mayor Hugh Short and Vice-mayor Thor Williams left senior services out of their newspaper statement “Our government needs to be focusing on core services: public safety, water and sewer, roads, recreation, and economic development.”

Since October 2003, the City of Bethel senior services program director and city clerk have insisted that only the senior services director, and not the Senior Advisory Board, can decide what citizens may talk about at the SAB meetings. In addition, the SAB is the only citizen committee that has their meetings discussed in the management reports included in the public Council packets. The management reports are personal notes from the senior services director. The SAB minutes themselves are written by the senior services director. As of March 9, 2004 the December 2003 minutes have not been given to the SAB for review.

The SAB operates under the authority of the City Council according to their bylaws. The collective senior voice is an active and functioning part of the City of Bethel, with specific and defined responsibilities to older citizens that cannot be circumvented by action of the City Council and management.

Last Tuesday, acting in the interest of seniors and of all citizens of Bethel, the Senior Advisory Board stood up for the rights of older Americans, against this City government’s best efforts to dictate otherwise. I am urging everyone to participate whenever issues of elder citizens are discussed–Senior Advisory Board meetings, City Council and Task Group meetings, newspapers, talk lines, legislative teleconferences.

Let your government officials know that there are folks who believe that growing older isn’t a disease; that an active democracy isn’t a crime.

Thank you.

M. Pamela Bumsted, Ph.D.

2 Responses to “Speak Mind Bethel Senior Center”

  1. 1 vuee 2006 February 25 at 11:37 pm

    [This letter was written on personal time but with City resources.]

    Delta Discovery Wednesday, March 24, 2004 Page 6

    Setting the record straight regarding Senior Advisory Board issues
    by Louise Charles

    The Eddie Hoffman Senior Center has been in existence for approximately 22 years. Director of Senior Services, Louise Charles, will be a 5 year employee, in the same position on April 5. 2004.

    Louise has been working diligently to expand and improve services for elders in Bethel and the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Many elders and partner service providers do attest, “Louise loves her job and works hard to serve all elders with equality and respect.”

    Louise was born in Nyac, Alaska in 1952 to parents, Joe and Helen Venes. Louise and her family moved to Bethel in 1952 and has lived most of her life in Bethel working in positions to serve people of this region. Mrs. Charles served on the Bethel City Council from 1976 to 1982; on the Bethel Advisory School Board in the 1980s and from 1998-2001; the Alaska Food Coalition; the Tundra Women’s Coalition Board; the Bethel Planning Commission; and the Disability Law Center Board for 11 years.

    The programs that are administered by the Director of Senior Services are: Nutrition, Transportation and Supportive Services (NTS), the Chrissie Shantz Adult Day Program (CSADP), and the Mature Alaskans Seeking Skills Training Title V Program.

    All three programs are funded with grants from the Alaska Commission on Aging (ACoA), which come from the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and are funded from July 1-June 30, yearly. Elders, age 60 and over, are eligible for our CSADP (with one exception) and NTS programs: seniors, age 55 and older, may participate in the MASST program if they are eligible.

    The Chnssie Shantz Adult Day program is monitored through Home and Community Based Programs under the Division of Senior and Disabilities Services. Our CSADP employs 4 staff, and has 14 enrolled clients with 2 applications pending. When they are approved, all available slots will be filled. The CSADP serves frail elders (over age 80), disabled elders, elders suffering from mental health impairments or those with Alzheimer’s or Alzheimer’s Related Disorders. To be eligible for this program, elders apply, are assessed, and if they meet the eligibility criteria, they are then enrolled.

    Clients in the CSADP attend the program from 10: 00 AM until 3: 30 PM. Their days are filled with scheduled snacks, activities, a daily hot lunch, special outings or field trips to the museum, airport, ice-fishing, and berry picking during summer, etc. CSADP staff helps with Activities of Daily Living (such as toileting, walking, eating, money management, shopping, using transportation, etc.) and other personal tasks as they arise.

    Page 21

    The Nutrition. Transportation and Supportive Services program has 4 full-time employees, including the Director, Mrs. Charles. The target group for NTS services dictates, by standard, that nutrition services must first be provided to clients who have the greatest need, i.e., frail (over 80 years), disabled and minority, low-income and those living in a rural area. Congregate hot lunches are served daily on site to between 30 to 50 clients, including CSADP clients. The Home Delivery lunch service to eligible clients in Bethel averages 45 meals per day. Meals prepared on site each month, range from 1,400 to 2000.

    Transportation services consist of our NTS Driver, and the Senior Employee (who works 4 hours each day under the MASST program) picking up elders each day and bringing them to the senior center.

    When the elders get to the center, they are greeted by staff, given a refreshment or snack and made comfortable. Staff provides Supportive Services through scheduled activities and presentations for each day of the week, such as: visits from the Ayaprun Elitnaurvik, the Diabetes Prevention Program, YKHC Behavioral Health, the high school JROTC, and churches. NTS staff also arranges for private citizens to volunteer to play music, assist elders with projects in the Woodshop, do income taxes for free, etc. NTS staff assist elders with filing for their Permanent Fund Dividends, filling out Senior Care Program applications, Medicaid forms, calling for medication refills, making hospital or social services appointments, setting up guardianships (if necessary) and with other paperwork they do not understand.

    Many times elders just want someone to talk to and to comfort or reassure them: NTS staff is here for them. When they leave the center at 1: 00 PM. the driver takes them to the post office, the hospital to pick up medication or to appointments, to different stores on certain days and to pay their bills. When the driver gets back at 3: 00 PM, he then takes the ADP group home making the same scheduled stops as the NTS group, but with the help of ADP staff.

    We serve visiting elders from the YK Delta, the State, and the Lower 48. The number of visitors can increase dramatically, especially when there arc local conventions held in Bethel. We do our best to welcome and accommodate guests and treat them with the respect and dignity that all elders deserve.

    It is gratifying to staff and elders alike that we have so many volunteers that assist with the day-to-day operation at the senior center. On a daily basis, the Director picks up 4 community service workers (CSWs) from the Tundra Center on her way to work. The CSW crew assists with food preparation and serving, as well as all the janitorial and some of the simple maintenance at our building.

    CSW crew also assists elders coming into and exiting the building to ensure safety. They clear the walkways and ramps of snow and ice and the elders are grateful for the hard work that is done on their behalf. We have regular community volunteers that come to help on a scheduled basis. Two Sisters from the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints come to help at the center for 4 hours each week. We have private citizens like Mary Hoffman, who helps at the Adult Day Program, and Kevin Murphy who comes 4 days per week for about 4 hours per day to manage projects in the Woodshop. Because we have a small staff, we arc fortunate that volunteers fill the void to assist our elders out of the goodness of their own hearts.

    The Senior Center also receives many, many donations throughout the year, both monetary and in-kind. We have wonderful monetary donations from: ONC, Calista, Calista Elders Council, the Alaska Food Coalition, GCI, as well as smaller cash donations from individuals in the community.

    We receive in-kind donations from the local stores, individuals, church groups, staff, SAB members, young people (ROTC), and local agencies (like FAA and AVCP Housing, Inc.) which we absolutely could not do without.

    Local individuals, men and women, donate at least $30, 000 worth of caribou, moose, fish and berries. We use this donated food to supplement our NTS program. This is the food elders love to eat and it is nutritionally very good for them!! People of this community respect the traditions and our rich culture and give to the elders. These arc the values that have been taught from generation to generation.

    The staff at the Senior Center is a dedicated group of professionals that love to work for and with elders. They work through their lunch hours or take a very short lunch to make sure elders are attended to. Staff works on projects at home to bring to the center for elders or to sell to make money for elder programming.

    Since 97% of our service group is Yup’ik speaking, it is especially helpful that most of our staff is fluent in the Yup’ik language. However, for the few that aren’t fluent, the universal language of caring is more than sufficient.

    In accordance with the Alaska Commission on Aging, the Administration on Aging, the Department on Health and Human Services, the Program Standards for CSADP, the NTS and the MASST programs, the director has to justify, comply with and be held accountable for the Senior Center Program Administration by our funding source, the Alaska Commission on Aging. The duties of documentation and compilation of the required statistics, i.e., documentation of numbers of meals served, numbers of assisted and unassisted rides, number of assistance and outreach contacts, etc. and program reporting are carried out or overseen by the Senior Services Director.

    Also, in accordance with the Senior Advisory Board Bylaws, the Bethel Municipal Code, the Review of Procedures for Commissions, Committees and Boards, the Open Meetings Act and Robert’s Rules of Order, the Director is tasked, by the BMC, section 2. 52. 170, “as an ex-officio member for the purpose of acting as secretary or clerk to the body (SAB) to furnish technical advice and information. Further, “the designated staff (senior center director) remains under the authority of the city manager and no staff member shall work directly for or be controlled by the body (SAB). (Ordinance 99-06, part 2)

    Per Commissions, Committees and Boards – Review of Basic Procedures, on page 4 under the section Secretary of Committees and Commissions, it states, “The department head clearly associated with the committee or, commission or board (SAB) or the department head’s delegate will act as secretary of the body. Immediately following, under Agenda and Notice, The secretary shall prepare an agenda for the committee, or commission, or board (SAB) according to the order of business set forth by the body. Committee or, commission, or board members, city manager and ex officio members may submit items to be placed on the agenda. Committees or, commissions, or boards shall not transact any business not on the agenda, except that an item not on the agenda may be added by a majority vote. ” On page 6 of this same document, under Attendance and Minutes, it states, “Minutes must be kept of all committee, commission, and board meetings. Minutes are taken and drafted by the secretary (ex officio)”, (or his/her designee).

    The Senior Services Director is grateful to the supportive and pro-active Senior Advisory Board Members, to the City Council and the City Administration for their continued support of the senior center and the services we provide to the elders in Bethel and the region. On-going building maintenance, upkeep and improvements, as well as quick and ready bus and vehicle repair and maintenance demonstrates that the City of Bethel is committed to serving elders of this community and region with the respect and dignity they deserve.

    This article was generated by the, “Speak Your Mind” article created by Pamela Bumsted, Senior Advisory Board Chair, entitled. “Senior Advisory Board Issues”. I do hope it clarifies much of the misleading and untrue statements made in that article.

    Louise Charles is the Director of Senior Services.

  2. 2 carrie reed 2010 June 19 at 4:56 pm

    hi; What is the status of the meal situation @ Bethel Sr Center?
    I heard reports that you were out of funding for the fiscalyear. Have you resolved it so as to continue providing meals?
    Is there anything that urban Alaskans can do to help? Are you able to accept donations of commodities? What might cash donations accomplish?

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