Wellington’s Senior Advisory Committee met on Thursday, June 13 ready to hear reports on upcoming programming for local senior citizens, but first ended up dealing with the surprise resignation of Sharon Lascola from the board.
When Lascola, the board’s vice chair and de facto chair, resigned at the beginning of the meeting, there was a silence from the other committee members. Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes and Community Services Specialist Jenifer Brito, there to present the committee staff updates, tried to help move things forward.
Barnes suggested that Lascola either give up her post immediately or continue serving as chair until the end of the meeting.
“Since there is a lull in the conversation, I suggest you continue the meeting and resign at the end, or pass the gavel to the new vice chair,” Barnes said, referring to Committee Member Jose Soto.
“I really didn’t have this planned to resign now,” Lascola said. “I have been on the committee since 2014. Veronica [McCue] was really good on this committee. She really brought purpose to this committee.”
Former Committee Chair Dr. Veronica McCue resigned at the March meeting after deciding to move to Virginia to help her daughter, who has been ill. She had worked to champion senior issues and bring more awareness between the village and seniors during her three years on the committee.
Lascola said that having McCue on the committee was the reason they got things done. “Veronica McCue got the little room at the Wellington Community Center to use,” Lascola said. “She made sure we had benches outside the community center to sit on. She was wonderful.”
Lascola said she wanted to resign in order to stay neutral. “I do not want to be chair. I do not want to go through anything political. So, that’s why I resigned,” she explained.
The committee members were shocked by Lascola’s resignation. “I thought I would be working alongside of you,” Soto said.
In an interview on Monday, McCue said that she was happy with the committee’s progress and sought to dispel rumors that she was chased off the board.
“I was not forced off the committee,” she said. “I resigned because my daughter is ill, and we needed to be in Virginia.”
McCue believes that her service on the committee was positive for the village and its senior population.
“I think it is a wonderful opportunity to have your voice heard,” she said. “I think it’s a good thing. You are stopped in Publix and somebody would see you there and comment on ideas for seniors.”
McCue hopes that the committee’s new leadership will continue to act as a voice for this vulnerable population.
“The ability to be connected with the community is important to seniors,” McCue said. “To be heard, to feel that their voices still mean something, is important. Having more opportunities to get together to talk, being recognized and having a way to contribute are significant.”
In the end, Soto was chosen as the new chair of the committee, while Jerry Springer will serve as vice chair.
In other business:
• Barnes updated the committee on a planned senior survey. “We provided a draft of the senior survey,” he said.
Barnes wanted to make sure that the questions on the survey represent the committee and the seniors they serve. He said his goal was to give committee members ample time to comment and have input. They will get together individually, and then in a workshop format to go over what was found in the needs-assessment for seniors.
• Brito said that she plans to hold an upcoming workshop for seniors on avoiding scams.
Brito also spoke about ways to get more seniors involved.
“We have a volunteer fair set for Aug. 22,” she said. “I want the seniors to know what the opportunities are to volunteer in the community. We have about 13 businesses that have already said yes. It will be from 10 a.m. to noon at the Wellington Community Center.”
Brito added that she is planning new events for the seniors and helping to bring more awareness to existing events so seniors can get involved.
• The board chose longtime local businessman Chuck Schaefer of Schaefer Drugs as its next Home Grown Hero Award winner.
“He was one of the first residents of Wellington,” Springer said. “He has always done good things for people. The store always has a friendly atmosphere when you go there.”
Schaefer Drugs has been open in Wellington since 1979.
• Before leaving the committee, Lascola suggested that the village look into alternate avenues to meet the needs of senior housing.
“We have talked about senior housing for four years,” Lascola said. “This concept is being tried in other cities. Malls are beginning to provide housing for seniors.”
With space opening up in the mall with anchor Nordstrom leaving, Lascola suggested it as a perfect location to meet the needs of seniors. “The senior club could lobby the council, and lobby whoever owns the mall,” she said. “With Nordstrom leaving, they can lobby them to put apartments there. It would be wonderful. Transportation, restaurants and cinema would be right there.”
• The next meeting of Wellington’s Senior Advisory Committee is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 12 at 3:30 p.m.