Seniors Panel Supports Survey, ‘Homegrown Heroes’ Program

By Dani Salgueiro

Wellington’s Senior Advisory Committee discussed an upcoming senior survey, senior community volunteering and ways in which to get seniors more involved and engaged in the community during the board’s monthly meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8.

Committee Member Mary Kastner had previously been assigned the task of drafting a survey that will eventually be used to improve the lives of Wellington’s older residents. The committee aims to use the survey to increase participation and get a quick and efficient response from Wellington’s senior community in order to make changes that will benefit the majority of senior citizens.

“The purpose of the survey is to determine in which areas Wellington could do more for its senior population,” Kastner explained.

She proposed a survey composed of nine categories. Some of the areas Kastner thought might be improved for Wellington’s seniors are communications, economics, education, health, recreation, transportation and volunteering.

Kastner stressed the importance of getting feedback from seniors. She broke down her categories by bringing to question whether seniors would benefit from things such as additional newsletters, educational programs, a concise and updated list of Wellington businesses that offer senior discounts, more community recreational groups and a community health fair for seniors.

“These are meant to be broad topics,” she explained.

Committee Member Sampson Nebb pointed out that much of what Kastner was proposing would be difficult to implement in terms of budget. Committee Member Sharon Lascola brought up the length of Kastner’s survey as another issue.

Vice Chair Veronica McCue, heading up the meeting in place of Chair Howard Trager, explained that she was asked simply to come up with different suggestions and ideas that could be included in the senior survey and that it would be proposed to the Wellington Village Council, which would make a final decision on whether Kastner’s suggestions would be achievable.

“This is a survey; it doesn’t mean we have to implement these things. They are just ideas to bring to the community,” Committee Member Jose Soto added. “We can make the changes as a group.”

The board voted to keep the survey as written in order to send it to the council for consideration. Nebb and Lascola dissented on the 3-2 vote.

The meeting went on to discuss senior volunteering and the Homegrown Heroes proposal. Seniors already in the volunteer program were asked if they had interest in volunteering at local elementary schools. Since the program launched, 10 senior citizens have been working at the Wellington Elementary School media center.

“There are two other schools that are in desperate need of our volunteers,” McCue said.

The committee plans to reach out to the community asking for more volunteers. McCue said that the announcement asking for more volunteers will be made at the next Wellington Seniors Club luncheon and will also be in the next printed newsletter.

McCue explained the Homegrown Heroes idea. The plan was derived from Wellington’s Hometown Heroes program, which honors Wellington residents who have, in some way, made Wellington better.

Homegrown Heroes would honor seniors over 60 who have lived in Wellington for 20 years or longer and have watched the community grow and change. There would be one Homegrown Hero per month, and they would tell their Wellington-related story on video.

The committee aims to make the Homegrown Heroes videos for schools, in order to educate students about the history and evolution of the Wellington community.

Nominations for Homegrown Heroes could be made by anyone and submitted to the Senior Advisory Committee or the Wellington Community Services Department.

The committee voted unanimously in favor of supporting the Homegrown Heroes idea, sending it to the council for approval.

The final topic of the meeting stretched from discussing the monthly meeting time to the importance of getting other senior citizens to attend the sessions. On another unanimous vote, the committee agreed to begin holding meetings at 4:30 p.m. starting in May.

When audience members commented on the new set time for future meetings, committee members said that it is a priority to them that senior citizens attend and participate in the communication happening at the meetings.

Resident Francine Strauss expressed concern that senior citizens are not aware that the committee meets every month and that they can voice their opinions and concerns at the meetings.

Committee members said they hope more people will continue to show up and engage in the conversation.

On other final matters, the committee revisited the importance of having a health fair for Wellington’s senior citizens.

Lascola advocated for the health fair, noting that she has witnessed health fairs succeed in Royal Palm Beach.

Paulette Edwards, Wellington’s community services director, assured the committee that a health fair is in the near future for senior citizens in Wellington.

“We were thinking late spring or over the summer,” she said.

The health fair conversation will continue at next month’s meeting, set for Thursday, March 8 at 3:30 p.m.