By Sherrie Norris
The 17th Annual Adult Services Expo attracted a large crowd to Boone Mall on Friday, May 17, during which several seniors were recognized, local agency representatives shared valuable information and others came to learn more about available services in the High Country.
“I would say that it was a huge success,” said Billie Lister, current chair of the Adult Services Coalition which hosts the event each year. “Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, plus we awarded many door prizes throughout the day and were able to give the community an idea of the many adult services that are available in the area.”
Lister said among the most visited booths was the one offering assistance with advance directives, a new service this year provided by Medi Home Health and Hospice “Many people were able to complete powers of attorney and living wills, which was a great success for all.”
The expo is always held in May, which is celebrated across the nation as Older Americans Month. The event, free and open to the public, is hosted annually by the Adult Services Coalition of Watauga County.
“The Adult Services Coalition is a group of service agencies — non-nonprofit organizations and businesses — that work with aging adults,” said Charity Curlee, In-Home Aide Supervisor with Watauga County Project on Aging, who helped serve as emcee on Friday. “Many years ago, we decided to form a group as a way to better educate each other on resources available. Monies raised through the expo registration and sponsorships go back into the community by helping fund programs that benefit aging adults and the disabled population through small grants we award annually.”
Always a highlight of the event, the Celebration of Living Awards were presented at noon to honor outstanding individuals in several categories, and included the following, along with the nominations/descriptions of why they were chosen for the award:
Facility Resident of the Year: Thelma Reece Burd, who currently lives at The Foley Center, was nominated by the center’s Activities Director, Amy Townsend. Burd was described as “a blessing to many in the facility, one who is always willing to help others.” Not only is she loving and kind to everyone around her, but she always helps to make new residents feel welcomed and loved, makes pillows for everyone in the facility and “can put puzzles together in no time,” Townsend said. “She deserves to be noticed and to be reminded that she is appreciated.”
Centenarian of the Year: Sadly, this year’s recipient, Doris Smith, passed away just a couple of days before the event and one month prior to her 101th birthday.
Candice Myers, Director of Community Relations at Deerfield Assisted Living in Boone, described Smith as “having a gentle soul . . . always very sweet and pleasant to be around.”
Her sense of humor, Myers said, kept everyone laughing, “especially when she shared her stories and 100 years-worth of knowledge . . She had a wonderful outlook on life and gave her family and loved ones many cherished memories to treasure. “I know that her memory, spirit and smile will continue to brighten Deerfield Ridge.”
Caregiver of the Year: Donna Whittington might be retired from Appalachian State University, but continues to care for others with the same commitment and dedication in which she served for many years in the public realm. Donna’s loyalty to her family is quite evident in the way she cares for her elderly mother, helping her to meet activities of daily living, whether administering her medications, bathing her, preparing her meals and anything else that needs to be done for her comfort.
“Donna is the sweetest person ever,” said Becky Beck, with Watauga County Project on Aging, who nominated Whittington for the recognition.
Individual with Disability of the Year: Martha Hamill of Boone was described as one who does not allow her diagnosis of multiple sclerosis to take away her independence. Also nominated by Becky Beck with Watauga County Project on Aging, Hamill lives alone and does a good job of caring for herself and her home. “She does all of her laundry and grocery shopping. She never complains, and hasn’t given up due to her disability.” Hamill was described as “an outstanding person who always puts a smile on the face of those she is around.”
The Hearn Volunteer of the Year Award, adapted last year to honor the memory of the late Dick Hearn — and to honor his wife, Joan, both longtime volunteers, community activists and great supporters of the coalition and expo — went to Pam Russell.
Nominated by Kay Herndon, an AARP tax volunteer, Russell is familiar to many at both Watauga County senior centers as the one who coordinates the volunteer tax assistance program, and has volunteered her services for the last nine years, helping about 270 individuals annually between both sites.
Describing her role as fulltime for six months of the year, Herndon said about Russell: “Pam starts early in the fall to prepare for site training, tax training, equipment training and annual tax testing, all required just to volunteer. . . What others don’t see or know are the hours of preparation required to open the doors for service, two hours after the doors are closed to review, process and administer information, and the time it takes to coordinate other volunteers and tax appointments.”
With ever-changing regulations and the lack of county tax assistance, Russell’s role has become more critical and vital to our citizens who cannot afford professional tax service, Herndon said. “Pam provides a great and much-needed service for our community.”
Russell was not present at the ceremony due to another volunteer service to which she had earlier committed.
Thanks to the sponsors
The annual Adult Services Expo would not be possible, Lister said, without the generous support of area businesses and organizations that help sponsor it every year, including Boone Mall for providing the space. A big thanks, Lister added, goes to everyone who helped make it such a success, and to this year’s Diamond Sponsors, especially, which include the following:
- Appalachian Home Care, LLC
- Deerfield Ridge Assisted Living
- Medi Home Health and Hospice