Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Simple Pleasures

I had the opportunity to join one of our loyal volunteers to deliver meals one morning for a couple hours. Our discussion in the car between deliveries centered on the Presidential election, planning for the coming holidays, the price of gas, midtown traffic congestion, upcoming vacations, challenges of raising teenagers, and other current events of the day. All this changed when we met a senior citizen client who made us rethink our priorities.

This lovely woman greeted us at her door with a big smile on her face. She graciously accepted the meals we brought her, but with one motion, she also pulled us both in to her stark apartment with glee. “Look what I have!” she exclaimed, pointing to the large picture window through which we saw very large hardwood trees brimming with yellow, red, and orange leaves of the fall season. Against the bright blue sky that day, the splendor of the colors made me squint. A sudden breeze outside made the picture come to life.

I couldn’t imagine a painting as beautiful to be found anywhere in the world. So, we stood there, the three of us, for a moment, then two, silent, just watching. “Just look what I have!” she said again.

We watched a moment more, and although wishing our stay could last longer, turned with my volunteer, and said our good-byes. The initial silence in the car with my volunteer as we rode to the next stop was broken as we looked at one another, and smiling, reflected that we had been given a great gift by that senior citizen that day: the chance to stop the busy-ness of a day, and appreciate simple pleasures in our own lives through the eyes of another.

If you wish to share simple pleasures with us and our seniors, we invite you to sign up to volunteer through this web site. Happy holidays!

By Brad Catherman
Vice President of Gift Planning

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Being Thankful

Oftentimes, regardless of where we are in life, we all have things to be thankful for. As I sat at the Thanksgiving Day table this year, I looked around and began to think of what I was thankful for.

Many people are simply thankful that they opened their eyes to the morning sun. My late grandma always used to say the most important part of her day was opening her eyes. It used to freak me out a bit when she would say this but now I understand what it meant to her. Just the thought of having another morning… she was thankful for that. Why is it that the less someone has – in her case, time – the more thankful they are for the simplest and most basic of what life offers?

I hope everyone continues to remember what to be thankful for well beyond the Thanksgiving holiday, and should times get rough, there is always the morning sun to be thankful for. Being thankful doesn’t have to end with a thought but can be translated into action – action to donate time as a volunteer or action to donate money to your favorite charity or action to share what others are doing that make you thankful.

-- Patrick O'Kane
Director of Operations

P.S. If you are a client reading this, I’m thankful you reached out for what help we can provide. If you are a volunteer, I am thankful you give of your time and energy. If you are a donor, I am thankful you give so generously. If you are a staff member, I’m thankful you are helping us meet our mission. If you are anyone else, I’m thankful you are reading this and hope you will become a client, volunteer, donor, or staff member.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Wedding Memories

After months of planning and preparing, Laura and Jeff had just one more task to complete before their wedding day: the party favors. Choosing meaningful favors is not an easy task, and it is one part of the wedding that is not for you, but for your guests. I have received wedding favors ranging from a personalized spaghetti scooper to a CD of the couple’s favorite music. But Laura and Jeff wanted their favors to be special, meaningful. Each had had a grandparent who struggled with Alzheimer’s, and both of those grandparents have since passed on. Like most of us, they had hoped their grandparents would be around for their special day.

To honor their grandparents, Laura and Jeff gave a generous donation to Senior Citizen Services, designating half for Meals On Wheels Atlanta and half for the Vivian T. Minor Adult Day Care Center for seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia. We provided Laura and Jeff with a sign to put on the head table, announcing that they chose to support Atlanta’s older adults in lieu of providing wedding favors for their guests, and asked our ADC seniors to sign a wedding card for the newlyweds.

I have never met Laura or Jeff, but their idea is a page out of my own book. For a full week, I could not contain my excitement. I told my mother, my best friend, my boyfriend, random passers-by. What a way to incorporate your community, your family, and strangers in need! I have often heard that a budget is a moral document: your priorities are evident in how you choose to spend your money. Laura and Jeff have shown us where their priorities are, and I am proud to count them among our supporters. I know their grandparents would be proud, too.

-- by Jaclyn Barbarow
Grants and Database Administrator

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's all in the Details

Here at Senior Citizen Services, we recently held our 21st celebration of “A Meal to Remember” which benefits Meals On Wheels Atlanta. The evening was a success with 255 people in attendance. We raised nearly $360,000 in a touch economy.

It is sometimes mind boggling how many little details can get in the way of throwing what is basically a dinner party.

In May, I visited with the Police Department to get the applications I would need to complete for our “special event permit.” Two applications must be completed (no photocopies) and notarized. I scheduled my appointment with an investigator and met with him only to be told that I had been given the wrong forms. I headed back to the office with the correct forms, completed those, had those forms notarized and went back to the police department.

My paperwork was in order for the police department ($25) and then I started the inspection process. Even though our event is held at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, every year, fire ($30), health ($75), and building ($50) inspections must be completed. I knew from previous experience that I must call everyday to ensure that the inspections were completed and turned into the police department. For two weeks, I left messages with my investigator who never called me back. I finally drove downtown to the licensing division and was told that the investigator was out of the office for the past two weeks and that no one was checking her voice mail or returning phone calls.

The investigator’s supervisor told me that none of my inspections were completed. I then started the phone calls to each department. After many phone calls and faxes (the city of Atlanta must not use email), I was finally assured that my inspections were turned in. I also requested that each department fax a copy of the inspection to me for my files.

I then was scheduled to go before the Licensing Board for the City of Atlanta to answer a few questions. They recommended that I receive the special event permit. A few days later I receive a phone call from the Mayor’s Office stating that they did not have the necessary health permit. I faxed my copy to them since it would probably take a few days for the health department. A couple of days later, I picked up the City Special Event Permit.

Then, the process began for the State of Georgia permit ($25). Since time is of the essence, I hand delivered my application to the state offices. A couple of weeks later I started phone calling to find out where my permit was. After leaving numerous voice messages and talking to six different people, I was finally told that there was a problem. Because we had wine in our auction, I must also apply for the necessary wine auction permit. That form was faxed to me; I completed that paperwork, and went back to the state offices to drop it off (another $25).

A few days and dollars later, I had the necessary paperwork to serve alcohol at the Ritz-Carlton for the annual “A Meal to Remember.” This year was an easy year compared to some years with getting permits. It’s been more challenging in previous years. I think I’m starting to learn the ropes.

- by Steve Hargrove

Director of Events and Marketing

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It Takes a Village

It takes a village. Think globally, act locally. Two catchphrases that we hear all the time, especially in an election year when the pundits and politicos try to meld theory with practice. We were inspired recently by a donor who took immediate and unselfish action, not out of any sense of recognition, but simply because helping was the right thing to do.

An SCS staff member literally ran out of gas during a meal delivery, and the AJC carried the story along with the overarching theme of how the gas and economic crises can sometimes hurt service delivery. Reading this newspaper story, an 80 year old widow who is living comfortably in an assisted living home called me to inquire as to how she could make a donation to help stem the tide of high gas prices. She asked not for recognition, in fact, preferring to remain anonymous in print form or otherwise. Instead, taking an almost biblical tone, she shared with me that it pained her that people her age were suffering, given her blessed circumstances in life.

The story of this new donor’s immediate gift was not only appreciated, but word of it energized the entire SCS staff. Her gift was thus multiplied, and will have benefit for many others long after the donation is spent. Sometimes, it takes just one person to motivate a village.

Brad Catherman
Vice President of Gift Planning
Senior Citizen Services

Friday, October 31, 2008

Some Friendships Last a Lifetime

“Some friendships last a lifetime. We just seem to be living a hell of a long time.”

This is the explanation offered by Helen, an 82-year-old grandmother who shares a blog with her best friend Margaret. Helen and Margaret met 60 years ago when they were in college, and they have kept in touch through marriages, children, grandchildren, and cross-country moves. Reading through the archives of posts and comments, a few things strike me:

1. Are you real? Many readers and commentors ask if the blog is really written by women in their 80s, somehow believing that this would not be possible. One of the reasons I love this blog is precisely because it is possible: Seniors are living independent lives of dignity and independence, and older adults do share a stake in important issues like the upcoming elections. The blog’s front page shows a picture of the two friends in their electric wheelchairs, touring a public space.

2. You remind me of my own grandmother! It seems plenty of readers miss the sassy wit of their own elder family members, and are all the more excited that Helen and Margaret’s stories and opinions will be recorded for the future. Not only have these two women witnessed great changes in the world, but they have been the ones to create change. They can teach us more than any history book ever could.

3. Keep on fighting. Helen and Margaret aren’t afraid to take a stand on issues that are important to them, while reminding readers that we vote not only for ourselves, but for our children and their children. In one recent post, Helen tells her readers this (and I couldn’t agree more):

“Folks, I’m tired and I don’t have another fight in me. It’s now or never. So to all of you I say this: Give your money. Give your time. Give your voice. Get up. Get out and do something. Anything. … Get out there and vote!”

-- by Jaclyn Barbarow
Grants and Database Administrator

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Two Collaborations You Need to Know About

Now more than ever we at Senior Citizen Services are being called to combine resources with fellow organizations to better serve our seniors in need. It is fitting that “collaboration” was one of the values that we as an organization highlighted in our Strategic Plan.

One of the exciting collaborations with which we have been engaged is between SCS’ Vivian T. Minor Adult Day Care Center and Marcus Jewish Community Center’s Weinstein Adult Day Care (Buckhead location). Both programs are operating under one roof with combined staff and streamlined operations. Our facility is alive with a greater number of seniors, with a wider range of needs represented, and best of all, a broader set of skills to meet the needs of our seniors. Though still in its early stages, this collaboration is already gleaning positive results for our seniors and their caregivers.

A different kind of collaboration has been taking shape with our Neighborhood Senior Centers. An innovative health and wellness collaborative has reshaped the way that seniors manage their health and chronic diseases (diabetes, heart-disease, depression). SCS and a team of collaborative agencies have been able to provide an evidence-based chronic disease self management program developed by Stanford University to participants of the Centers.

Under the leadership of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Aging Division, SCS and its partners, The Fuqua Center for Late-Life Depression at Emory University, Visiting Nurse Health System, Atlanta Technical College, Project Open Hand, Piedmont Hospital Sixty Plus, and The Arthritis Foundation, have been able to combine resources to provide practical tools and peer support for the behavior change necessary to manage such diseases. Though also in its early stages, participants have claimed a greater sense of control of their disease, increased support in making decisions around exercise and diet, and decreased doctor visits.

These are just two examples of how Senior Citizen Services continues to chart a new course for providing services for seniors. You can be confident that each dollar donated and each hour volunteered now goes further thanks to such collaborations in every program. We will continue to seek such partners to be able to continue to meet the needs of the growing senior population.

by Jeffrey Smythe
Executive Director

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Advocating for Seniors

Fulton County government recently held open-to-the-public budget hearing meetings in order to obtain feedback from the community. The meetings were held throughout the county to ensure citizen involvement. I attended one of the meetings and invited a CareShare client to join me. It took just a bit of her time, and mine, but our voices were heard. We advocated for the need for continued services for seniors throughout the county as well as asking for increased funding and services due to the growing senior population – the boomers have arrived!

We all can advocate for the senior cause even when we are not at a formal meeting. I encourage everyone to always be talking about the need of our seniors – seniors whom have built our communities and now find themselves in need of supportive services. Advocating can even be talking to a friend, prodding them to support SCS and our seniors through monetary donations or giving of their valuable time serving as a volunteer.

I challenge everyone to speak up for the senior cause in your own unique way. Take action on this advocacy by getting involved and seeing firsthand what the seniors in our shared community so desperately need. The best way to do this is to volunteer to deliver meals through our Meals On Wheels Atlanta program. SCS has a large volunteer base; however, it has shrunk in the past year. Each volunteer hour equates to $18.05 per hour, which is a valuable cost saving expense for the program. We thank each and every individual who helps us through this program and others.

Volunteers also attended all of the seven Fulton County budget meetings. These volunteers, some are clients and others are interested stakeholders of our programs, were amazing. They told their stories of the value that they receive from the programs and that there is a greater need out in our community.

Interestingly enough, it is much less expensive to provide in-home services to seniors rather than to place them into institutional care, such as nursing homes. Seniors in nursing homes represent 3% of the total population receiving federal support yet this group accounts for half the dollars expended. The other 97% are seniors who are living in their own homes. This shows the importance of services provided by SCS and our volunteers – helping seniors to remain independent in their own homes. Remember, too, that these funds are generated through all of our taxes; we must continue to advocate for in-home services for the senior cause in order to get the biggest “bang” for our buck.

We invite you to join us in the senior cause… how will you help?

- by Patrick O'Kane
Director of Operations

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Seniors in Other Parts of the World

Recently through a raffle drawing, I was honor with two airfares to Europe. Having never experienced Europe, my eyes were wide open and my mind very observant. The trip began in Amsterdam, Netherlands, where people transport themselves in a multitude of ways – trains, trams, buses, bicycles, small cars, and walking of course.

One of my first observations was that older adults – in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s – were walking about and to my amazement confidently hopping on and off bicycles. During my four years of serving seniors in Atlanta, I would have to say I’m not sure our older adults would be so confident hopping on and off a bicycle or walking the distances I witnessed of our Amsterdam older adult neighbors.

America is an amazing place, spread out across this vast land. However, we need to remember too that exercising our bodies and minds is an important component of our long-term well being. I’m curious now to find studies that compare or show the health statistics for older adults in Amsterdam – due to their physical activities – comparing to American older adults. I was also amazed by the fact that I didn’t see any “obese” people of Amsterdam (you could point out the Americans who had that “bulge”). I relate the fitness of the people to their low stress levels and capabilities of walking to the stores or enjoying a beautiful walk in one of the many parks, or simply biking to the store. And to the older lady I spoke with, she was 72 and hopped right off a bicycle in front of me, she stated she knew no other way to live and she hopes that she can forever be able to ride her bicycle.

We have a lot to learn from our European neighbors – physical fitness, energy conservation (energy powering windmills everywhere), and even driving habits. The livable communities that have begun to sprout up have a direct link with “walk-able” communities and seem to be promoting the same type of European lifestyle. But can this European lifestyle be copied? I’m not so sure. But one thing can be accomplished; we can all get on a bike, walk around the block, or do what physical activity our bodies allow us to do and enjoy a healthy life.

by Patrick O'Kane

Director of Operations

Monday, October 6, 2008

Savenger Hunt!

Remember how much fun it was to have a neighborhood scavenger hunt when you were a child? Or, maybe you have enjoyed them in your adult years, as I have! The Senior Citizen Services web site on which you are reading this blog is packed with wonderful information to aid you, no matter if you are a client, donor, corporate sponsor, foundation member, volunteer, student, newsperson, or any of our other many stakeholders.

A fun scavenger hunt awaits you! Grab your mouse to help hunt down answers to these questions –

How does my company sponsor an event?
How may I donate the most amount of money while saving the most amount of taxes?
Whom do I call to volunteer at SCS?
What’s the phone number of the Fulton County Senior Services Referral Hotline?

Let us know how you did, and how we may be able to serve you further. Thank you.

Brad Catherman
Vice President, Gift Planning
Senior Citizen Services

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Keeping Costs Low at SCS

The first time the term “overhead” was explained to me, I understood it as “the cost of keeping the lights on” and similar expenses. In other words, direct costs are those that go directly through the program and into the tummies, homes, and lives of seniors. Later, I learned that fundraising and administration costs are part of overhead as well. At SCS, we cultivate a culture of financial soundness, and creative methods are employed to maximize both efficiency and quality. For example, SCS minimizes fuel costs by varying the delivery schedule for Meals On Wheels Atlanta and planning HOMES projects close together. The effect on seniors is neutral, if not positive, and the money saved can be distributed to increase the number of older adults receiving supportive services.

Senior Citizen Services is proud to have only 15% overhead. Unless you work in resource development, that number probably means little. When you donate $20, we spend $17 on food, gas, lumber, tools, routing software, activity supplies, etc., that directly benefit our clients. We spend just $3 of that $20 donation to keep the lights on, cash checks, pay salaries, raise funds, and the like. By contrast, the federal government’s welfare program has a 95% overhead cost – only $1 of every $20 in the program’s budget goes directly to people in need.

Senior Citizen Services recognizes that our donors choose to support this organization because they care about seniors. Thanks to a forward-thinking mission and vision, our supporters can count on SCS being a safe place for their investment for many years to come.

—Jaclyn Barbarow

Monday, September 22, 2008

How We Help Seniors Keep Their Homes

Foreclosure—a common but unpleasant word in today’s rough housing market. Foreclosures seem to be the culprit for a great deal of our economic uncertainty as well. According to a study by AARP’s Public Policy Institute released September 18, 2008, “684,000 homeowners age 50 and over were either in foreclosure or delinquent on mortgage payments in the last six months…about 28% of all delinquencies and foreclosures[1].”

You and I may have thought that seniors were somewhat immune to this crisis—or at least minimally affected. More startling is that the seniors who are African American or Hispanic who are 50 and over “were disproportionately affected by the mortgage crisis when compared to whites[2].”

It makes me proud that we have a solution to such concerns for homeowners—our HOMES program (Home Owner Maintenance and Enhancements for Seniors). No, this is not the only solution, but when combined with other supportive services, could allow a senior to remain in his or her home.

Jerrell Saddler, Senior Citizen Services’ HOMES Manager, has successfully taken his team to record levels of repairs last month. From an average of 15 seniors helped per month one year ago, to thirty-one seniors helped per month in July to Augusts’ record-breaking fifty-three seniors helped, HOMES is touching more seniors than ever. Quantity and quality go hand-in-hand for this program, combining the passion of volunteers with the skill of four field technicians. Senior homeowners qualify for the program through homeownership, income level, and a number of other criteria, and seniors have an opportunity to donate back to the program in a variety of manners.

And soon senior homeowners who have incomes greater than 200% of the federal poverty level (current cut-off) will be able to benefit from this program. A special expansion pilot program is currently being tested with hopes that the services will be open to all seniors in 2009.
I am proud of our HOMES leadership, team and army of volunteers. Thank you for enabling seniors to enjoy a high quality of life, maintaining their independence and dignity.

[1] As quoted in Contra Costa Times according to the Associated Press; September 18, 2008;

[2] Contra Costa Times

Friday, September 5, 2008


Being very involved as I am in gift planning for SCS, I’m often asked honestly by SCS employees, volunteers, and donors about the “continuous, painful rejection” that such “selling” must encompass. Not at all, I reply, because I’m not raising money, I’m raising friends!

“Friend-raising” is really what non-profit “fund-raising” is all about. I’m simply a conduit between the needs of SCS’ senior citizens, and the passion to give that our donors possess. Providing an outlet for donors to help others is a gift in itself, and they repay the favor. My role in making friends that have an interest to enable our seniors to enjoy a high quality of life is a very gratifying one.

When donors thank SCS for the privilege of giving, and we thank them for their kindness, a long-lasting friendship is forged where everyone wins – including our appreciative senior citizens.

by Brad Catherman
Vice President of Gift Planning

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hurricanes and Gram

A few years ago, my grandmother sold her home in New Jersey and moved to Florida, shrinking the distance between her and my mother from a few-hour plane trip to a 10-minute car ride. Now 80 years old, my four-foot-eight Gram is still fiercely independent, preferring to climb on top of her kitchen cabinets rather than ask for help putting up that new framed picture that matches her curtains perfectly.

When warnings of Tropical Storm Fay were announced on the radio that Gram keeps at full blast all day long, she shuffled around her house not really sure what to do, but knowing that she needed to do something. Every other time a big storm had hit, my mother and brother secured her home and took her to my mother’s house with the rest of the family, where everyone sat in the safest room of the house until the worst of the storm passed. But this time, Gram wanted to do it all herself and stay in her house. She closed the blinds, took her potted plants inside from the back patio, and looked around the house, unsure of what truly needed to be done to protect herself and her belongings.

When Fay seemed to take a turn to the north, Gram called me in a tizzy – “Jaclyn! Are you ok? The hurricane is going to hit Atlanta!” I calmly explained that if it were to hit Atlanta, it would be a few days off and would be at a significantly weaker strength. Once I convinced her to stop worrying about me, I asked how she had prepared for the hurricane and if my mother had come to help (knowing from my mother than Gram had refused to let her). She admitted that she had been pacing, but didn’t really know what steps to take. Seeing the opportunity, I casually mentioned the things she needed to take care of – besides taking the potted plants in from outside.

Below is what the Department of Homeland Security suggests for emergency hurricane preparedness for older adults. While the tropical storm that threatened Gram’s home was not severe enough to warrant the preparations below, I know my grandmother would tell me, “It’s better to be safe than sorry!”

(More detail can be found here:

Long before a disaster strikes:
Consider how a disaster might affect your individual needs.
Plan to make it on your own, at least for a period of time. It's possible that you will not have access to a medical facility or even a drugstore.
Identify what kind of resources you use on a daily basis and what you might do if they are limited or not available.
Get an emergency supply kit that includes food, water, and other necessities.
If you must evacuate, take your pets with you, if possible. However, if you are going to a public shelter, it is important to understand that animals may not be allowed inside.
Plan in advance for shelter alternatives that will work for both you and your pets; consider loved ones or friends outside of your immediate area who would be willing to host you and your pets in an emergency.

Things to remember about medications and medical supplies:

If you take medicine or use a medical treatment on a daily basis, be sure you have what you need to make it on your own for at least a week, maybe longer.

Make a list of prescription medicines including dosage, treatment and allergy information.
Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about what else you need to prepare.
If you undergo routine treatments administered by a clinic or hospital or if you receive regular services such as home health care, treatment or transportation, talk to your service provider about their emergency plans. Work with them to identify back-up service providers and incorporate them into your personal support network.
Consider other personal needs such as eyeglasses, hearing aids and hearing aid batteries, wheelchair batteries, and oxygen.

-- Jaclyn Barbarow

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Our Board Raises the Bar -- and More!

As a part of our Comprehensive Strategic Plan our board, clients, staff, volunteers and other stakeholders recognized that our visibility in Atlanta was frankly inadequate. When a forty-three year organization is a “best kept secret” in Atlanta, this provides a serious barrier to engaging the volunteer and donor support needed to meet the critical mission.

However, allocating funding to marketing instead of services is just not a part of Senior Citizen Services’ culture—we have always hung our hat on the fact that very little donated funds are utilized for administrative expenses (usually less than 15% annually).

The solution? SCS was fortunate last fall to receive a challenge grant from an anonymous foundation. This foundation challenged our staff and board to find a significant amount of funding that would be matched by the foundation—all of which was to be invested in raising the organization’s visibility, and therefore its ability to engage volunteers and donors.

Our Development Committee Chairman, Al Kleeman, embarked on a new adventure—what if we could raise a portion of the funding needed from the Board? Would this cannibalize our special events? Our original projection was that we could raise about half to two-thirds from the Board and then go to other foundations and friends of the organization for the rest.

We knew we were on our way when one of our Board members responded in a Board meeting with a phenomenal gift—she challenged the rest to give in a meaningful and significant way…and they did!

Within three months we had raised and surpassed the goal—and could go back to the foundation with the funding in hand to meet the challenge.

This is but one example of how Senior Citizen Services’ Board of Trustees is “raising the bar”—and more. They are raising needed funds to invest in SCS’ future. There have been numerous other examples for “raising the bar” since, whether it was participating in fund development workshops, adopting an aggressive new job description, or now embarking on a new fiscal year Board and Friend-Raising Campaign.

I have witnessed a dramatic change since I have been at Senior Citizen Services. Our Board members continue to engage more, encourage each other more, and in so doing enable more seniors to receive the vital services of Senior Citizen Services.

Hats off to you, our leaders and ambassadors! You are setting an exciting course for our organization and our treasured seniors.

Jeff Smythe, Executive Director

Monday, August 4, 2008

Christmas in July

Senior Citizen Services recently held its annual “Christmas in July” party for Santa for Seniors. It was a lovely party in the backyard by the pool of a gorgeous Buckhead home. Over 100 people attended and brought more than 200 gifts with them to be used during the holiday season.

Santa for Seniors is the brainchild of SCS Board Member, Jade Sykes, and her mom, Jill Berry. A few years back, Jade decided that for her December birthday, she would like her friends to bring a gift for a senior instead of bringing a birthday gift. Santa for Seniors was born! Each year since its inception it has grown.

Jill Berry says, “Senior citizens are probably our loneliest and least considered group. A little bitty gift makes them smile like the days when they were young and Santa Clause came to see them.”

Originally, the idea was to collect enough gifts so that each Meals On Wheels Atlanta client would receive something with their meal delivery on Christmas day. Last year, SCS collected enough gifts that not only did each meals on wheels client received a gift, but also each client in our Adult Day Care program AND each client in our eight Neighborhood Senior Centers. Nearly 1000 gifts were distributed during the 2007 holiday season!

If you would like to donate a gift for a senior, visit the “Special Events” section of for a list of “senior friendly” gift items. Gifts can be dropped at the SCS headquarters Monday through Friday from now until Christmas.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Power of One

More than 70% of American households make charitable contributions every year. The average American contributes 2.1 percent of his or her income to charity. Last year, contributions to nonprofit organizations totaled over $260 billion. Clearly, charitable giving – and all that we accomplish through our acts of generosity, large and small – is at the very heart of our society.

But sometimes we get overwhelmed by the “largeness” or our society’s problems, or intimidated by headlines of wealthy philanthropists who give millions of dollars at once – and we stand back and ask ourselves what difference an “average” person can make. The answer is that transformational giving begins with the single individual, just as transformational change begins with a single volunteer. Every gift and every hour of volunteerism is important, not only for its immediate impact, but because these acts have a way of energizing others to follow the lead. When one person stands to make a difference, it raises us all up.

The power of one, and the power to begin, is the most valuable possession that our country, state, city, county, and neighborhoods have at our disposal. We live in a society where freedom to act is a privilege and responsibility. The decision to turn on the power is yours today! Turn it on!

Brad Catherman
Vice President, Gift Planning
Senior Citizen Services

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hispanic Seniors in Atlanta

¿Hablas español? ¿Hay servicios para personas quienes hablan español?

Well I hope I said that correctly. I have to admit that my Spanish is a little rusty. After spending a year after college in Central America immersed in the Spanish language, I now have to make a concerted effort to practice.

But that may change in the near future. The time is near when we will be speaking many languages as service providers to meet the needs of our population.

We in aging services are constantly aware of the fact that the baby boomers are and will be revolutionizing the way that we provide services—top among the reasons is that the mere number of aging adults will be more than doubling by 2030. But another statistic struck me this week. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ U.S. Population Projections 2005-2050, “The Latino population, already the nation's largest minority group, will triple in size and will account for most of the nation's population growth from 2005 through 2050. Hispanics will make up 29% of the U.S. population in 2050, compared with 14% in 2005.”[1]

So as America ages it will also become more Hispanic. Our current services surprisingly include very few Latinos. Whether it is because our service area is not touching the highest populations of Atlanta Latinos, or because Latino older adults are not seeking assistance or are not finding assistance accessible, we must answer these important questions.

Senior Citizen Services has prided itself as providing the important safety net for Atlanta older adults who have no where else to turn for support. For more than 43 years our organization has found innovative and volunteer-driven ways to meet critical community needs. We must ensure that this does not change as our city and our country continue to diversify.

Our organization will continue to explore how it can best build bridges with various communities to meet such critical needs. Whether it is engaging more multilingual volunteers or diversifying our Meals On Wheels Atlanta menu cycle, there are a multitude of ways we can expand our crucial services to more seniors in need.

Come with me as we start a buena aventura serving all of Atlanta’s valued seniors.

Jeff Smythe, Executive Director

[1] From Website:; July 15, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Beautiful Day

On a sunny Friday last spring, a visiting caterer’s dripping oil started a tennis ball-size fire in the SCS kitchen. Adrenaline surged through my veins as I ran down the hallways evacuating everyone, and later talked to the fire fighters, the caterers, the other building tenants, my staff, and my supervisors. Within two minutes, the fire was a small pile of soot, workers and senior clients were waiting safely in a parking lot across the street, and a thick covering of flame retardant blanketing the kitchen like an expansive, grey snowdrift.

After the fire department cleared the building for re-entry, we began escorting Adult Day Care clients back to their exercises and activities inside the building. I held Mrs. S’s elbow as I helped her across the street, my mind a thousand miles away on emergency procedures and clean-up and the trip I was scheduled to leave on that afternoon. I was cranky, but Mrs. S walked next to me with a smile on her face. Finally, as we approached the building, she said out loud, “Look how beautiful this day is! If it wasn’t for that fire, none of us would have seen the sunshine.” Ripped out of my anxious reverie, I almost stopped short in the middle of the road. Mrs. S was right! On one of the first sunny, breezy days of spring, I had trudged into work with my head down, spent all day in an air-conditioned, office with my back to the window, and planned to trudge right back out. It would have been nighttime before I realized the day had passed.

Every program of Senior Citizen Services focuses on older adults, and on our mission to enable them to enjoy a high quality of life without sacrificing their independence or dignity. In doing this, we also build communities and support relationships. Meals On Wheels Atlanta clients receive life-sustaining nutrition support, but the staff and volunteer drivers who make the deliveries are just as sustained by the relationships they nurture. HOMES clients are kept safer, drier, or warmer by the repairs provided by groups of volunteers, but nearly every volunteer group has one or two people who sit and listen to the client’s stories for hours during the project.

Older Atlantans need the services SCS provides to sustain their homes and their health; volunteers need the older Atlantans to sustain their lives. Nurturing communities allows us to stop and look up at the sun, or at a senior’s face, to remember why we’re here. It’s easy to get lost in the smoke, but the joy comes from seeing the sunshine.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Poison Ivy

A couple of weeks ago, I mowed Mrs. White's back yard. I've been doing this now for three or four years and keep my lawn mower at her house since I live in a condo now. Mrs. White is one of our Meals On Wheels Atlanta clients.

Mrs. White always wanted a big family, but ended up with only one daughter. Her daughter is busy with her own career and travels frequently. She's only able to stop by and see Mrs. White a couple of times each week at the most. Mrs. White no longer drives, so she is pretty confined to her house.

When I first met Mrs. White, she said, "Welcome to the White House!" At that point, her back yard was almost three feet high with grass and weeds. (That was back when it still rained in Atlanta.) She has someone that cuts the front yard, but he can't get his riding mower through the gate into the back yard. Ever since then, I've made sure that her back yard gets trimmed every two or three weeks, so that when she looks out her window, she's not seeing a jungle.

I think Mrs. White enjoys my visits more than having her back yard mowed. She definitely looks forward to the drivers who bring her meals to her. She moves slowly, so volunteers have to be prepared to wait a while at the front door until she gets there.

The last time I was at her house mowing, I got a bad case of poison ivy. It was only one spot on my arm, but every time it itched I thought of Mrs. White. I need to call her and see if it's time for me to cut her yard again.

-- Steve Hargrove

Monday, June 16, 2008

Servant Leadership

By Brad Catherman
Vice President, Gift Planning

In this Presidential election year, much is made of a candidate’s leadership ability. In fact, the very definition of leadership becomes a topic worthy of debate. We like to align a host of adjectives to our most revered leaders: courageous, honest, proactive, articulate, intelligent, charismatic, and others. However, I would like to suggest that the principle hallmark of a leader is having the heart of a servant.

The most effective leaders with whom I have had the privilege of working are the ones whose main goal is to serve others, not be served by others. Leaders achieve effectiveness by serving others in their organization when they create an environment to maximize everyone’s talents, abilities, and resources – who in turn – serve clients, customers, or other stakeholders. True leaders understand that they are not at the “top of the pyramid,” but rather, true leaders understand the most effective organizational pyramid stands upside down on its tip, where the leader is at the bottom! Those who are served always take their rightful place at the top of the upside-down pyramid. In this model, a servant leader’s main attributes would include being unselfish, nurturing, respectful, and a team-builder.

Being new to the management team at Senior Citizen Services, I have witnessed this culture of servant leadership on a daily basis. This fundamental perspective was the reason I wanted to join SCS. Our managers and supervisors serve each other and our volunteers, who in turn are always eager and dedicated to serve our seniors in many ways. This focus on our priority to serve drives everything we do at SCS.

Servant leadership demands the best traits in all of us, and at SCS, it’s the reason for our success since 1965. Thank you for all you do to help us serve our seniors in the future.