Senior Services of Island County gets new director

Jim Self, center, is the new executive director of Senior Services of Island County, a nonprofit agency serving seniors and disabled people. Seated is Barbara Heussmann, meal site manager from the senior center in Oak Harbor and Sherrie Baker meal site manager in Coupeville.<p> - Gayle Saran
Jim Self, center, is the new executive director of Senior Services of Island County, a nonprofit agency serving seniors and disabled people. Seated is Barbara Heussmann, meal site manager from the senior center in Oak Harbor and Sherrie Baker meal site manager in Coupeville.

— image credit: Gayle Saran

Meeting the needs of a growing senior citizen population with fewer dollars is a challenge facing the new director of Senior Services of Island County, Jim Self.

Self, who will assume the helm of the private, non-profit organization on Feb. 1, is taking over as Island County’s senior population is topping 16,000 residents, based on the 2000 census. In 2000 there were 13,500 people in Island County 60 and older.

Based on the state’s data, the over-60 population of the county in 2025 is projected to be 35,497, or 35 percent of the total projected county population of 101,000 people.

But while this increase in the senior population is happening, Senior Services’ budget may not be growing to match. The agency’s budget in 2005 is $2.2 million, $150,000 more than the previous year. That’s not enough growth, according to agency officials.

Self — who was hired as Senior Services nutrition director in 1993 and was named deputy director of the agency in 2003 — is replacing former Senior Services director Mike McIntyre, who retired after eight years as the executive director. As the number of seniors living in Island County increases, Self said his goal as the new director is to keep Senior Services moving forward to meet the needs of the county’s population while maintaining existing services and adding more based on demand.

Self said with Island County’s population of seniors set to almost triple in 20 years, his agency needs to identity the needs of this group. By comparrisson, the rest of the population is estimated to grow between 10 and 15 percent over the next two decades.

He said one aspect of Senior Services that shows the demand for its programs is in the meal programs.

“In 1993, there were 15 clients receiving meals on wheels from the Penn Cove Store to the Deception Pass Bridge,” he said. “Today we are delivering to 70 people.”

The meals program, with meal service sites on South Whidbey, Coupeville, Oak Harbor and Camano Island, served or delivered 90,000 meals in 2004.

This is by far the largest program offered by Senior Services, and is the most costly to run.

“It only takes a trip to the grocery store to see how expensive food is now,” Self said.

At one time federal grants paid for nearly 50 percent of the cost of the meals program, but those funds haven’t increased to meet the rising cost of food. Now they cover about 30 percent of the cost a program that serves lunches five days a week, one evening dinner, and sends out Meals on Wheels.

Of the $2.2 million in Senior Services’ budget, $537,000 comes in state and federal grants, while another $100,000 comes from Island County.

Wide holdings, many needs

A positive financial note note for the agency was the opening of the new Senior Thrift Store in October 2003 in Freeland. All profits from the store go toward Senior Services programs. Self said the store does double the business it did when it was in a smaller, out-of-the-way location at Bayview. In 2004, the new senior thrift store grossed $550,000.

In addition to the store, Senior Services owns the Bayview Senior Center, Can-Be Apartments in Coupeville and leases sites in Oak Harbor and on Camano for meal services and a social gathering place.

Self said Bayview Senior Center is bursting at the seams.

“It’s old and small with no room to expand,” he said. At sometime we need a new site.

The Bayview Senior Center hosts a number of educational classes, special programs promoting social activities, dance and exercise classes, health screenings/foot care and escorted field trips throughout the year.

At one time, members of the Senior Services board of directors were interested in space in the Commons, a planned multi-generational community center planned at Bayview Corner. Senior Services dropped out its partnership with the Commons in 2003.

Although the nutrition program reaches the most people, several smaller programs are equally as important, Self said. The Chore program — in which volunteers help elderly people remain in their own homes by providing shopping, housework, cooking, and transportation — required 5,600 hours of volunteer time. In December alone, 100 residents were taken by volunteers to various appointments.

In addition to the volunteer help, Senior Services employs 41 paid staff, most on a part-time basis.

Other Senior Services programs include South Whidbey adult day services, counseling to seniors needing health care insurance information, a job bank, senior information service, and a subsidized, 50-unit apartment complex in Coupeville. Two new programs were added this year; case management by nursing staff and training for family caregivers.

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