By Sherrie Norris
It was a sad day for many senior citizens in Watauga County when they learned that Billie Lister, longtime director of the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center in Boone, had accepted a position with the state.
It was an even sadder day in late September when she departed for her new job.
But, the seniors found some comfort in the fact that Lister would still be representing them and their peers on a much larger level.
Recently named manager of the North Western Region of the NC Department of Insurance Senior’s Health Insurance Information Program, better known as SHIIP, Lister will be working in over 20 NC counties, including those in the High Country.
“As the newest regional manager, I will be supporting and training SHIIP coordinators and volunteers across the region,” Lister said. “While I will be home-based much of the time, I will also travel throughout my region to help educate and support the work of SHIIP to aide beneficiaries in selection of plans to better fit their needs and help save them money.”
According to Lister’s new supervisor and SHIIP’s Field Operations Manager Jeanie Schepisi, her move should not be considered a “loss” for Watauga County.
“While she has transitioned to a State of NC career, Billie will still be supporting Watauga County in her new role. She will now be sharing her talents with 21 other counties, as well as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.”
Schepisi explained that Lister became acquainted with SHIIP almost five years ago, when she graduated from SHIIP online basic rraining, receiving her SHIIP certification, on November 1, 2017.
“When Billie became SHIIP certified, she formally became the SHIIP Coordinator for Watauga County, while working for the Watauga Council on Aging, and serving as the Director of the L.E Harrill Senior Center in Boone.
On September 25, Lister “transitioned” into her SHIIP role, Schepisi said, “by saying goodbye to the Harrill Senior Center, and joining the NC Department of Insurance staff, and the SHIIP Regional Manager Team, as the SHIIP Western Regional Manager.”
Lister joins four other SHIIP Regional Managers in supporting and managing the SHIIP program in North Carolina.
“Billie brings enthusiasm and the desire to do a great job to her new career,” Schepisi said. “She is an energetic, creative and bubbly presence on our SHIIP Regional Manager Team.We are fortunate to have her!”
From the Senior Center to SHIIP
Lister began working with Watauga County Project on Aging on January 9, 2017.
“From the start, I loved the seniors and the work environment,” she told High Country Press. “I felt at home and worked hard to meet all the diverse needs of the seniors I served. I quickly felt like I was home, accepted and loved —the seniors and staff became my family almost from day one.”
To say that she felt sad to leave the position is an understatement, she admitted. “However, a wonderful opportunity came along.The seniors at the Lois E. Harrill Senior Center were very sad to say farewell, but they all wished me well, and said they were glad that I would still be serving Watauga County with Medicare counseling.”
Until her replacement is named and trained, Lister said, she will continue to serve as the connection to SHIIP counselors and will also take appointments.
“The fact that Watauga County will be one of the 20-plus counties I serve will help me to stay connected to the many special seniors I came to know and love at the center,” she added.
The seniors gave her a wonderful send off, for which she is very grateful, Lister said. “They bought me an amazing rolling briefcase, gave me a huge cake, flowers, gifts and cards. Most appreciated was the many hugs and well wishes. There were tears —but mostly happy embraces. I can never thank them enough for the many years of memories, the special conversations through which they shared their lives and wisdom with me, and the friendship and love they have shown me. They have impacted me with the certain belief that there is still good in the world — and many people here in the High Country will give of themselves for others.”
At the same time, Lister admitted, “I look excitedly toward the adventure and the opportunity to serve so many more people in this state —the chance to touch more lives and make more friends. I feel I have a definite purpose in this life and this is the door the Lord has opened for me to walk through.”
Lister would like to thank all those who helped make her time at the senior center so memorable.
“And I need to remind seniors to contact SHIIP to make an open enrollment appointment with a counselor,” she added. “Medicare Open Enrollment is October 15 through December 7. They can call the Project on Aging to make their appointment with me or one of the Watauga County SHIIP volunteer counselors. The number is 828-265-8090.
More About SHIIP
Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) is a division of the North Carolina Department of Insurance that was created in 1986 to provide persons with Medicare counseling and assistance. SHIIP assists persons who are already on, or going on Medicare, regardless of age. SHIIP provides neutral, objective and unbiased counseling and assistance to their clients, at no cost. SHIIP does not sell insurance, nor do they endorse any company, agency or plan. Any medical or financial information that is shared with a SHIIP representative is confidential.
SHIIP can be reached by calling the NC Department of Insurance’s nationwide toll-free number at 1 855-408-1212 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. – select a language preference (1 for Spanish and 2 for English), then select 2 for SHIIP/Medicare. For more information, visit the SHIIP website at: www.ncshiip.com.