The Star-Herald

Agency on Aging elects directors, lauds volunteers at annual meeting

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The 47th annual meeting of the Aroostook Agency on Aging was held Oct. 6 under the direction of Rev. Dr. Ken Phelps, president of the board. 

The meeting originated from the agency’s main office in Presque Isle, where 22 people attended in person, while 16 connected remotely. The remote option was offered to ensure COVID-19 safety while also taking into consideration limitations due to long-distance travel. In person, attendees wore masks and observed social distancing guidelines. 

Phelps acknowledged the agency’s directors and the management team, accepted the report of the nominating committee, and explained the voting process. Mail-in voting, which closed Oct. 18, confirmed two-year terms for the following directors: George Dionne of Grand Isle and Don Raymond of New Canada in the agency’s northern region; Linda Nadeau of Wade, Martha Grant of Presque Isle, and a one-year term for Walter Elliot of Limestone in the central region. Keith Mackenzie of Island Falls and Lori Weston of Houlton were elected to fill seats in the southern region. 

Phelps recognized outgoing directors Phyllis Pelletier, Ashland, who served four years, and Albertine Soucy, Frenchville, who served two years. 

Officers elected to serve through 2022 include: Phelps of Presque Isle as president; James Tweedie of Blaine as vice president; Mary Anne Buck of Mapleton as secretary; and Dr. Durward Huffman of Fort Fairfield as treasurer. 

“For all of us, this has been a challenging year,” Phelps said. “We are fortunate to have a very strong senior management team. Their work during COVID has been exemplary. They are creative, highly motivated, flexible, and wholly dedicated to our mission to serve older and disabled persons.” 

He said the board would to a regional meeting format for future annual meetings when it was safe to do so. 

Joy Barresi Saucier, the agency’s executive director, reported accomplishments over the previous 12 months and goals for the new year. 

“Many hands are required to help achieve these goals. This is where all of you and our community can play a role. We need your help whether as a staff member, volunteer, advisor, or community activist,” she said. 

“There is just no way that we could do what we do without the collective efforts of many. We currently employ just over 100 staff members, who are joined by nearly 150 volunteers in common purpose,” she said.

“This powerhouse of 250 individuals enables the agency to do what we do — to respond to our community, to help older people and those with disabilities to stay living in their home and home community, to help caregivers continue to provide compassionate and appropriate care to those in their family, friends, and community networks, and to help people of all ages stay well and socially engaged in their communities.” 

The agency has worked to continue its programming through the pandemic, Barresi Saucier said. 

“We worked proactively with our healthcare partners to ensure every older person who needed an appointment for their vaccination was helped,” she said. “Over 2,800 individuals were assisted by staff and volunteers. Nearly 50 community volunteers contributed over 900 hours in service to make this possible.” 

The agency staff innovated and adapted programs and services this year to ensure community access to our new virtual world. 

Barresi Saucier said, “We implemented an iPad lending library so all could access our programs virtually, even if they did not have their own technology. We developed new online programming, such as the Online Gathering Place, to bring new supports to those needing social and caregiver support. We continued to adapt our Nutrition programs to meet the ongoing high demand for home-delivered meals,serving over 9,000 meals each month Countywide. 

“We launched our new Friendly Volunteers program which matches background checked and trained volunteers with those in our community needing a visit, call, help, technology support or connection to a resource. And we responded to increased calls for information and assistance from our community which is the very core of our mission,” she said. 

In other business, agency leaders presented service awards to 28 employees, recognizing more than 126 years of combined service to older adults and caregivers in northern Maine. Among those honored were: Sharon Berz, 45 years; Carol Savoie, 20 years; John Bouchard, 10 years; and Melanie Albert, Christine McPherson, Della Schilcher, Bethany Thompson and Steven Winfrey, five years. 

Five employees who retired during the past year were acknowledged, welcomed to the Agency Alumni Group, and were encouraged to stay connected with the agency going forward. They are: Rose Boucher, Personal Support Services, 7 years; Laureen Carlisle, manager of Eldercare Services, 17 years; Joseph Davis, RSVP Northern Area Volunteer Coordinator, 6 years; Rosa Harris, Personal Support Services, 18 years; and Gladys Hooey, Personal Support Services, 19 years. 

Phelps thanked volunteers for their commitment to service. 

“To all our dedicated volunteers, including the board of directors, we could not function without you. To the rest of our employees and volunteers, thanks for a job well done this year. You are the hands, feet, and faces of our agency. Without you, meals would not get delivered, home visits not made, and programs would have no leaders,” he said. 

“To my fellow volunteers, we are amply rewarded by being part of a vital, caring organization.” 

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