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Conversation with Avery Senior Services Director Philip Adams

By Tim Gardner

Known by his family, friends, colleagues and those who use Avery County Senior Services for his excellent leadership skills as well as his kindness and compassion for others—especially the less fortunate– is the department’s apt director, Reverend Philip Adams.

The Avery Senior Services Department in Newland has a most worthwhile reason for existence for the County’s golden citizens. Its mission statement reads: to promote the well-being of the County’s older adults by supporting services and activities which are intended to support their health and independence, enhance their dignity and encourage their involvement in and with the community.

Continue reading for an interview exchange between this reporter (my questions) and Adams (his answers) about the multitude of services available to Avery’s senior citizens through his department.

High Country Press (HCP): How long has the Avery County Senior Services existed?

Adams: Avery Senior Services was founded in 1979 by R.D. Daniels who served as its director for 33 years. It first began meeting at Aaron Baptist Church in Montezuma.

Our current headquarters was built in 1984, largely through the labor of R.D. Daniels and many volunteers. It truly was a labor of love for and by this community. We (Senior Services) have made some recent renovations to provide greater programming space in our limited footprint, as we are beginning to outgrow our facility.

HCP: How long have you been the department’s Director and how did it come about for you to fill the position?

Adams: I have been at Avery Senior Services as Director for six years. Previously, I was the Director of Burke County Senior Services. I served in that capacity for 14 years. I had known R.D. Daniels professionally. When it came time for him to retire I was looking to relocate to the real mountains, and to take on some different challenges in the field.

Avery County is a beautiful place to live and work and I was delighted to get the opportunity to work in a field that I love in an area as wonderful as this.

HCP: For those who want to learn more about you, what are your personal and professional backgrounds?

Adams: I have a Bachelor of Arts degree from King University with a triple major in English, Theology and Philosophy. It was there I met my wife Susan. I originally intended on going straight to Seminary and becoming a Pastor, but God waylaid those plans. Instead I went to work for the President Pro Tempore’s Office of the North Carolina Senate. I researched and ghost wrote, with a team of two others, a history of the North Carolina General Assembly.

I then took a job as a Volunteer and Activity Coordinator at Cherry Hospital in Goldsboro, NC – a State Psychiatric Hospital where I first begin working with older adults by coordinating activities for the geriatric units. Goldsboro was just too hot and flat for me after living in Bristol, TN, so I transferred to Broughton Hospital in Morganton.
In 1999 I took the position of Senior Services Director in Burke County and had my first child, Lillian. I also began to feel a call to the ministry and so enrolled in and completed the two-year program to become a Commissioned Lay Pastor within the Presbyterian Church USA. I did fill-in work and was Chaplain at Broughton Hospital for six months as an interim. My second child, Alex was born during this period in 2002. In 2004 I took my first Church, Connelly Memorial Church in McDowell County. I served that Church, concurrent with my work in Burke County until 2011. In 2011 I took the position as Pastor at Oakwood Presbyterian Church in Lenoir, NC – I still serve that Church to this day.
In January of 2013 I became the Director of Avery Senior Services.

My wife is a former teacher of the year in Burke County, and a current teacher at Davenport Elementary in Caldwell County, NC. She is Nationally Board certified, and most importantly to me the greatest example of quiet faith I have in my life.

My daughter is completing her High School/Associates Degree at Mayland Early College this spring. And my son will complete the 10th grade at Avery High School this year and is a percussionist in the band.
What aspect do you consider most rewarding about your work with Avery Senior Services?

Adams: One of the reasons I was led into this work, is because it is a ministry. God had plans for me that I did not anticipate. I thought I would be a minister (full-time) at a Church, or even a professor in a Seminary somewhere (I have a deep love for reading Theology).

But God saw I had gifts I did not recognize in myself, and the reward we get at Senior Services is knowing we have helped someone stay in their homes longer, or maybe have just a little higher quality of life than they would have if we did not exist.

HCP: Approximately how many individuals and families does the Senior Services and the Citizens Center serve weekly in Avery County through the various services offered there?

Adams: We serve Home-Delivered meals to approximately 80 clients a day. We provide in-home aides to 68 clients weekly and have 113 daily average attendance at our Senior Center location.

Also, we served over 1000 clients at either our center, in-home or through linkages in the last year. More than half attend regularly. Many others come for particular training opportunities, Social Security Assistance, Tax Assistance, Medicare Counseling or one of our many other services.

HCP: In detail, what various services are offered?


  • Provide Various Health Screenings geared towards the older adult free of charge or at reasonable cost.
  • Fitness Programs are provided at the Senior Center and off-site in cooperation with our partners: Avery Recreation and the YMCA.
  • Insurance Counseling: SHIIP (Senior Health Insurance Information Program) counselors – Provide counseling services for older adults and qualified Medicare recipients interested in Medicare, supplemental insurance, and long-term care insurance information.
  • Tax Preparation: TCE – Tax Consultation for the Elderly volunteers prepare and efile state and federal tax forms
  • Legal Services – Available through Legal Aid of North Carolina. Appointment only.
  • General and Medical Transportation: Services are provided by us for Seniors 60+ through Avery County Transportation.
  • Support Groups: Several support groups are sponsored by Senior Services. Please inquire if there is a group that meets your needs.
  • Volunteer Avery: Emergency rental assistance, heating assistance, Home repair/mod assistance, food assistance, rental assistance and more.
  • In-Home Aide – We provide Level 1 (Household Chores) and Level 2 (Personal Care) Medicaid Applications available at Center and our partner the Avery County DSS office available first Tuesday of the Month.
  • Social Security –Direct Link with the Hickory office on the 2nd Limited Services.
  • Nutrition Services – Congregate and Home Delivered meals. Lunch at the Center is served at 11:45 AM Monday – Friday. Call or ask for info.
  • Medical Equipment Loan Closet – We loan out various items – wheel chairs, bedside toilets, shower seats and more. Subject to availability.
  • Telephone Assurance Program – Our Partner, The Avery County Sherriff’s Office provides daily calls for shut-ins and seniors. You may sign up or refer a client at the Center.
  • Caregiver Haven – Provides respite care every Friday. Program provides activities and lunch for your loved one.
  • Housing Assistance – Location and Contact
  • Project Care – Personal GPS devices for Dementia Clients
  • Other programs are available at different times during the year such as: Driver Safety, Caregiver Classes, Senior Games, Holiday Parties, Financial Programs, Special Educational Opportunities, trips, Elections/voter registration.

HCP: What determines eligibility for individuals and families to use the Senior Services?

Adams: To utilize the Senior Center in General an individual must be 55 years of age or over. This includes our classes, trips, educational programs and counseling services.

To have an In-Home Aide or Home Delivered Meals a client must be 60 and over and meet certain guidelines provided by the State. Generally this means they must be homebound and have certain limitations in Activities of Daily Living.

To have meals at the Senior Center the clients must be 60 and over.

We also have special programs throughout the year for younger clients. Generally these are care-giving programs but also other programs are offered from time to time.

HCP: What are the costs for those services?

Adams: Generally, there are no costs for our services. The only time we have a cost is if the program has a cost for us. We do ask for contributions and our generous clients provided us with approximately $20,000 in funding last year through donations.

HCP: How many employees (full-time and part-time) work for the Avery Senior Services and the Senior Citizens Center?

Adams: There are 15 employees at the Senior Center and we contract some In-Home Aide Services out to local providers through the Home and Community Care Block Grant.

HCP: The Senior Services also uses various volunteers. How can anyone who wishes to volunteer do so and what does their work entail?

Adams: Those wishing to volunteers need to call our main office at (828) 733-8220. We always need meal deliverers, and we also utilize volunteers in administrative support, special programs, as teachers and other areas. If an individual has a particular talent they believe would be beneficial or entertaining we would like to him or her contact the Center.

HCP: A multiple question: Does the Senior Services receive Federal, State and local funding?   Also, do the Senior Services and Senior Citizens Center in particular also sponsor fundraisers? If so, when and where are they held?

Adams: The Senior Center receives approximately $190,000 in Home and Community Grant Block Funds for Meals, In-Home Aide, Transportation, and Senior Services. As a Senior Center of Excellence (highest status in North Carolina) we receive an approximate $15,000 in additional funding.

We receive some grant monies in small amounts for offering Evidence Based Chronic Disease management, Fall Prevention, and Exercise. Usually in amounts of $200-$300 per class and includes materials for the participants.

We usually have two large fundraisers a year –at the Center one in the fall and one in the spring. We deliver BBQ plates in the community and we receive a handmade quilt from the Riverwalk Quilters guild that we raffle off each year.

The majority of our funding comes from Avery County, which has been very generous in helping us maintain top quality services to assist clients in staying in their homes.

HCP: Do you have additional comments you want to make about Avery Senior Services or any other topics?

Adams: I have been in Senior Services for approximately 20 years. I have been responsible for getting two Senior Centers in Burke County to the “Center of Excellence” status and maintained that status Avery County achieved. I have personally mentored and evaluated Centers all across the State and our services rival any Center in the State. Additionally, we have the most caring staff that it has been my pleasure to work with. The staff treats every client with respect and great care.

We are fortunate to have such dedicated people in Avery County. Avery Senior Services is good, and it is a reflection of the people we have working within it.