Senior advocates demand senior center for Nevada County
Special to the Sierra Sun
Many attendees at Tuesday’s Nevada County Board of Supervisors meeting praised the advocacy and passion of the senior services director, a new arrival to the community.
Gold Country Community Services Executive Director Janeth Marroletti made a big push to supervisors to help her nonprofit expand its services and establish a senior center, garnering significant backing from audience members.
In her presentation on senior food insecurity, Marroletti asked several things of supervisors — including additional food resources, an evacuation plan for homebound seniors and enhanced transportation. But her supporters, over 20 people wearing yellow and green ribbons, put the most weight behind supervisors committing to a county senior center.
“We’re at a critical point right now,” said senior advocate Barbara Larsen. “How do we want to be able to use these resources? Because we’re all going to need them.”
Larsen noted that beginning in 2008, senior assistance nonprofit programs like the Area 4 Agency on Aging began providing less funding for senior projects. In 2017 the nonprofit terminated Nevada County’s Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. One year later, The Del Oro Caregiver Resource Center closed due to state budget cuts.
While Marroletti didn’t provide specifics, she said she wanted to triple the amount of funding — to a total of about $600,000 — given to Gold Country Community Services to expand old projects and implement new ones.
The nonprofit’s board secretary, Gabriel Lenhart, said Nevada County has the third largest senior population in the state, and that, despite all the nonprofits dedicated to seniors, it would be nice to have a permanent home for all of them.
“I know we need to take care of our homeless,” he said, “but if we don’t take care of our seniors, we’re going to wind up with more homeless.”
Part of the issue seniors face is related to social isolation and disconnection, said Interfaith Food Ministry Executive Director Phil Alonso. His nonprofit has 450 volunteers — most of whom are seniors. Alonso called their energy “amazing.”
FREED’s phone reassurance coordinator Maureen Gerecke agreed.
“They’re depressed, they’re anxious and they’re lonely,” she said. “They want to tell their stories, they want to share their wisdom.”
While he likes the idea of a senior center, Supervisor Ed Scofield said sustaining one is difficult.
Despite this, most supervisors said they want to support Gold Country Community Services’ initiatives, but that they need more community advocacy.
“The people who advocate for the homeless show up,” said supervisor Dan Miller. “They’re ankle biters… and I think seniors need to be the same.”
Supervisor Heidi Hall said she wanted more people to attend Area 4 Agency on Aging meetings. She also suggested senior advocates write to state and federal representatives who have rejected expanding food stamps and food services.
“That’s where most of our grant money comes from,” said Hall.
Supervisors Susan Hoek and Scofield said attendee support Tuesday raised awareness for them.
“I really think you put these programs on our radar much more than they were,” said Scofield.
Sam Corey is a reporter for The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun based in Grass Valley. Contact him by email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4219.