Consultant: RPB Should Form Group Like Wellington Cares

The Royal Palm Beach Senior Citizen Ad Hoc Advisory Board last week approved the Senior Needs Assessment Study completed by PMG Associates.

On Thursday, June 8, economist Phil Gonot of PMG Associates gave his report on the company’s findings and research into senior needs in Royal Palm Beach.

“One of the things in our role that we like is clarity. We didn’t have much problem whatsoever finding out what you thought,” Gonot said. “Sometimes you have to figure it out, translate it. You were incredibly clear, and that’s very important.”

Gonot proposed a nonprofit organization dedicated to senior needs in Royal Palm Beach. He met with Wellington Cares Volunteer Coordinator Diane Gutman and recommended a similar nonprofit serving the Royal Palm Beach area. “That’s what Wellington Cares is. They are separate from the Village of Wellington government,” Gonot said. “And, Wellington Cares said they would help in setting up the same kind of program.”

He also recommended the hiring of a professional staff person to facilitate in the operations of a potential senior program.

“Somebody who focuses on these things will probably add to the kind of services that you get and the amount of services that you get,” Gonot said. “That particular person can also work with some of the volunteers who can help in that particular program.”

Before completing the study, PMG Associates met with the board and was told that transportation is a big focus for the improvements and addition of services to meet senior needs in Royal Palm Beach.

Gonot discussed door-to-door services, door-through-door services and a service called a STAR (senior transportation and rides) system, which are subsidized taxi rides that are supposed to bring people together, giving them reduced-price rides on a monthly basis.

“The cost is not excessive, and it is basically volunteer-driven,” he said.

The Village of Wellington uses a STAR system paid for in part through its general fund.

“What you would need to do locally is establish the parameters,” Gonot said.

That includes age, number of rides each month, destination and cost.

Wellington Cares performs door-through-door escorted rides as a part of its services.

Volunteer services were discussed. Including transportation services, much of what was proposed to the board called for the need to have a staff of volunteers, which would coincide with the foundation of a nonprofit.

“If we are putting a program together that is very heavy related on volunteers, can we do it?” Gonot asked. “I talked to a number of people on the board here, and they feel that the number of volunteers can be generated.”

He said that given the size of the village, it would need to have a staff of 25 to 30 volunteers to fulfill the services that it hopes to provide for its senior population.

Gonot said that Gutman has trained two Royal Palm Beach residents who want to help form an organization like Wellington Cares. That’s two out of at least 25 volunteers ready to help local seniors, he said.

“But, with any volunteers, you can’t let it lapse,” he said. “You have to keep on these groups regularly.”

In terms of a nonprofit that would help tie in the need for transportation services and other forms of assistance to senior needs, he proposed $40,000 for operational costs on an annual basis.

Gonot also recommended pursuing grants. Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) has a grant program that he listed in his report. It serves foundations that provide volunteer services, such as the ones being proposed.

“They give out money to agencies because they have volunteer programs,” Gonot said. “They’re not huge amounts, but we’re not talking about a huge amount of money here. If you can get, $25,000 to $30,000, it offsets a tremendous amount of your costs.”

He also recommended the purchase of insurance through the proposed foundation.

“Everyone wants to be safe. You don’t want to be the good neighbor and then end up in a financial situation,” Gonot said. “We would suggest that additional purchase of insurance is a very smart thing to do.”

Gonot recommended a partnership with Wellington and other surrounding communities in order to lobby for services.

“I don’t shy away from the word of lobbying,” Gonot said. “Two voices are not just double one voice; they’re more than that.”

He said with the already-established nonprofit in Wellington, it can help Royal Palm Beach get in front of organizations that provide desired services.

“Then you have a concentrated market area, because everybody from this part of the county is working together,” Gonot said. “You can’t have enough friends in this world. Whether it’s a government or a person, you have to work together.”

He asked that his report be approved by the committee so that it could be brought before the Royal Palm Beach Village Council, which was slated to hear the report Thursday, July 15.

Board Member Sandy Rubin made the motion to approve the report, which carried unanimously.