There are several tasks we engage in day to day – preparing lunch, sending an email, pruning bushes – that, for many, require little thought, time or energy. The daily tasks may even feel tedious and mundane. For some residents of Baldwin County, however, these necessary chores and responsibilities require a great deal of effort. In fact, they may even require the help of others to be accomplished.
That’s where Baldwin County’s Council on Aging (COA) exists to help.
“When we answer a phone call, we often hear, ‘I don’t know if I’m calling the right place, but…,’” said COA Aging Coordinator Kelly Childress. “We do our best to help our seniors regardless of the issue. Although there may not be a program available for what they need, we will help them to find what it is that they are looking for.”
With a mission to “Improve the quality of life, total wellness and financial security of Baldwin County Seniors,” COA offers services including everything from insurance counseling and legal assistance to art classes like ceramics and crocheting.
In addition to its own programs, COA also connects seniors with community organizations and businesses that may be able to help.
“We have a great relationship with local agencies, the Social Security office, doctors and other county departments,” Childress said. “In today’s world, people are quick to say, ‘I don’t know’ or give someone an 800 number. We strive to give personalized service to our Seniors, and they do appreciate the extra care.”
Twenty-five years ago, COA consisted of one employee with a desk in the BRATS (Baldwin Rural Area Transportation) department, located on Hwy. 59 in Robertsdale. A second employee was added in May of 1994, and the department continued to grow.
Currently located in the Central Annex in Robertsdale, COA now consists of eight full-time and two part-time employees, along with a Senior Aide, and responds to several thousand calls each year.
“So many times we hear our clients say, ‘I’m so glad there’s a program like this here in Baldwin County,’” Childress said, adding that a gentleman recently echoed the sentiment when he needed a little computer help. “He had been sent to us from the Probate Department, and he needed to apply for a service online,” she explained. “But he didn’t have a computer, nor did he know how to navigate one. This isn’t a service we advertise, but he needed help and we took care of his concern. Simply put, there are so many complex topics that affect seniors and we want to help them navigate their options, educate them about decisions and be here whenever they need assistance.”
In recent months, Baldwin EMC employees have volunteered to help COA on various occasions. Last fall, a crew assisted some elderly citizens in clearing their yards of underbrush and trimming back overgrown bushes and trees. “They were very grateful and appreciative,“ said Shannon Clemmons. “I think we did a lot more than they were expecting.”
“I think one of the ladies just wanted someone to talk to,” said Wayne Givens. “When we cut some of her trees, she was just floored. It was pretty awesome to help someone who wouldn’t otherwise have the means to get help.”
“There was something really nice about helping these people with something they couldn’t do themselves,” recalled Joseph Bryars. “It wasn’t a lot of work for us, but it was huge for them.”
And that, in essence, is the bottom line of COA.
“Volunteering in that capacity is so appreciated by our seniors, who just can’t physically trim the bushes, or pick up limbs or afford lawn service,” Childress said. “They rely strictly on the goodness of others to offer a helping hand.”
For more information on Baldwin County’s Council on Aging, contact their office at (251) 972-8506 Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., or visit www.baldwincountyal.gov.