Council on Aging focusing on Meals on Wheels program

By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL sarah@newnan.com The Newnan-Coweta Council on Aging will begin concentrating solely on its Meals on Wheels program, and Coweta County will take over operation of Newnan's Tommy Thompson Senior Center, following a vote Tuesday night by the Coweta County Board of Commissioners. The commissioners voted unanimously to go along with the recommendations of the Newnan-Coweta Council on Aging.
The Newnan-Coweta Council on Aging was formed many years ago "as an effort to try to deliver services to the senior citizens in the county," said County Administrator Theron Gay. Coweta County and the COA partnered to build the Tommy Thompson Center on Hospital Road in Newnan. Now, "we are at kind of a crossroads, where there are some different goals and objectives" for each organization, Gay said. Gay said the county was approached by the COA about the change. He said everyone has also met with Joy Shirley of the Southern Crescent Area Agency on Aging. "We believe it would probably be a good time to divide those programs," Gay said. The council on aging had hoped to make the transition effective April 1, but "that is just a little too quick for us to do all of the accounting we need to do," Gay said. He asked for the commissioners to approve the change going forward. Currently, the council on aging acts as the funding agency for some programs at the senior center, but not all. The COA also runs the Meals on Wheels program that delivers meals cooked at Piedmont Newnan Hospital. The senior center's director and assistant director are Coweta County employees, and the county owns the center and pays for its operations. But the COA employs three part-time workers at the center. Those three workers are paid with funds that come from the Southern Crescent Area Agency on Aging. The Southern Crescent funds also pay for some Meals on Wheels meals that are packaged at the senior center. The COA formerly paid for two Meals on Wheels employees with funds through the United Way. There is now only one Meals on Wheels employee, coordinator Sharron Parks. "It really serves no purpose for us to function as the funding agency" for the senior center employees and programs, said Lizabeth Andrews, vice president of the council on aging. Being the funding agency meant that the COA was responsible for all the human resources work regarding the three senior center employees. When the change becomes official, the three part-timers will cease to be employees of the COA. "The county can make the decision of whether to employ those three people or not," Andrews said. Coweta County will become the recipient of all funds through the Southern Crescent Area Agency on Aging. And the COA will turn over all bank accounts related to the senior center. The COA will also give the county $12,000, which represents funds donated to the COA and managed as the senior center building fund. The change will allow the COA to concentrate on the United Way-funded Meals on Wheels program. "The Newnan-Coweta Council on Aging is still going to have a very robust Meals on Wheels program," Andrews said. "We are thinking of various ways to expand our program, and United Way is very excited about our ideas." "We'll have more funds to serve additional people and we won't be trying to manage the money that goes to the senior center for food. That was really a county function, anyway," Andrews said. Andrews said that, in the Southern Crescent Area Agency on Aging region, "we were the only county that had an agency like ours handling the money." In all the other counties, the money goes directly to the county. "We were an extra wheel on the wagon that wasn't necessary," she said. "The gist of it is we're just turning over the money management for the food that serves the senior center and a couple of routes ... out of there, and we're going to manage our program that is funded by United Way," Andrews said. "It was very amicable," she said of the split. The involvement of the COA "was something set in place years ago, that probably worked well" then. When the change was discussed "it was sort of a 'duh' moment -- why wasn't it done years before?" Andrews said. "It didn't really make sense to me why it was that way." There were some changes on the COA board and "things shifted around; we were able to get down to the bare basics of how can we make our organization work better, more efficiently, more effectively, and grow it," Andrews said. "We really couldn't grow it and spend all of our time managing the money from the senior center and all of the HR headaches that went with it," she said. With the change, "we can focus on going in a new direction now, where more people can be helped," she said. In addition to the Meals on Wheels program, the COA sponsors the annual Senior Healthy Aging Expo, Andrews said. The COA recently raised money, and awareness, in the local elementary and middle schools with the "Coins for Cupcakes Challenge." The COA has a three-pronged mission: education, advocacy, and direct services. "By unburdening ourselves of the responsibility of managing money and employees," the COA will be able to concentrate more on those goals, Andrews said.


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