The ‘bad news’ is the Committee on Aging is scarce on funding

“We are here asking for funding assistance,” said Gloria Martin, president of the Committee on Aging (COA), in a detained presentation during the Tuesday morning meeting of the Greenbrier County Commissioners. Present with her were five supportive members of the board of directors: John Wyman, Ann Howell, Jim Nichols, Janice Cooley and Mary Jo Sharp.

Stating there was “good news and bad news,” Martin declared there are 9,560 citizens in Greenbrier County who are over 60 years of age. At 36.8 percent, that’s more than a third of the population. Many of them are on fixed incomes and must rely on the services COA provides including nutritional support, transportation for medical attention, housekeeping, recreation and education as well as getting a hot meal delivered daily to their homes. Cost have escalated, she said, and funding sources are shrinking. The state has cut back on funding to nonprofits across the board by seven percent, and all are experiencing the squeeze. The rise in minimum wage, while a good thing for employees, means COA ended up losing $48,000 last year. Their fleet of nine vehicles traveled 224,328 miles while delivering 35,000 meals to the homebound. All these things must be accounted for, she said.

“We cannot continue to operate this way,” Martin said.

In the past, the county commission gave COA an annual sum of $50,000 from the coal severance fund, but with that fund declining, the commission was only able to fund COA with half that amount in this fiscal year. After the stress of a recent embezzlement case when an employee took several thousand dollars from COA’s bank account, Martin said, they did not cut back on services to their elders, nor lay off staff. Instead, the experience gave them an opportunity to look seriously at their finances and try to find “creative ways” to secure more funding.

Fundraising efforts, Martin added, such as the Senior Prom, although a great success, will never raise $50,000. And, she said, competition for grants has become fierce because those other nonprofits are seeking the same funding.

“We will have to do something about this,” she said, which could mean cutting back on services, meal deliveries, and even laying off employees. “We don’t want to do any of these things.”

The commissioners basically have their hands tied, owing to the limits to their funds in the coal severance account. Commissioner Lowell Rose laid blame on previous commissions “over the past several years” for the way the budget was handled. “There are no discriminatory funds available,” he said. The commission will sit down in March to go over the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Commissioner Mike McClung said the commission would continue to support COA, however he could not guarantee what amount could be allotted. He quoted a remark made by a commissioner from an adjacent county; when asked how funding was managed for nonprofits, “Simply put,” the commissioner said, “we don’t.”

“We are fortunate in this county that we can still fund our nonprofits,” McClung said.

“We have a moral obligation to help our elders,” Martin chimed in. She “challenged” the commission to come up with a creative way to find a way to help.

In other business:

Commissioner Hanna read a Future Farmers of America (FFA) proclamation declaring the week of Feb. 21 to 28 as FFA Week.

Rupert Mayor Jimmy Nichols requested the commission approve deeding Friendship Park to the city of Rupert. Nichols said the main use for the approximately 15 acre, wet-land area was to be a productive place to have a community vegetable garden site. As a wet-lands area, he said no structures will be built, and all activity will be compatible with approved wetland management. Portable restrooms and a plastic tool shed will be located on the site. Security will be provided by a chain-link fence and will be locked overnight. Nichols hoped school children and the community will enjoy growing vegetables. The commission agreed it was a “good plan” and moved to approved the project.

911 Director Al Whitaker asked for approval of a EMS representative be added to the 911 Advisory Board by recommending White Sulphur Springs resident Thomas Hayes to serve on the board. The vote was unanimous in favor.