Seniors' Groups are Happy with New Deal

By Scott McCaffrey, Sun Gazette Newspapers

Douglas Frost, who heads the Alliance for Arlington Senior Programs, is shown at the Langston-Brown Senior Center on May 12, 2018.

The process took a tad longer than anticipated, but all sides concur that a new agreement in support of the Arlington government’s senior centers already has had beneficial results – with more good things on the way.

“It’s a sea change,” said Douglas Frost, who heads the Alliance for Arlington Senior Programs.

It was that non-profit organization that last September inked an agreement with the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation, formalizing a relationship that had existed for nearly a decade and, as a result, provides new resources to the volunteer committees that support six county senior centers.

The change was embraced by advocates for local seniors.

“We’re quite thrilled,” said Marilyn Marton, who chairs the Senior Adult Council. She cited Alliance efforts to sponsor events ranging from cooking demonstrations and fitness programs to a “brain day” devoted to aging issues, and its efforts to provide financial support so income levels do not create a barrier.

“The Alliance’s contributions – monetary, programmatic or just working together to achieve goals – are invaluable for fostering and maintaining a vibrant senior community,” Marton said.

Getting the agreement signed, she said, provided “a big sigh of relief.”

The agreement allows senior-center-based volunteer committees – operating under the umbrella of the Alliance for Arlington Senior Programs – to again raise funds on county-government property. County officials for several years had not allowed that fund-raising to take place.

The trickle-down impact of the formal partnership is wending its way to individual senior centers, where participants in programs are able to take an active role in providing financial support.

“We just had . . . a big garage sale, which is how we raise most of our money,” said Marge Corletti, who chairs the senior committee at Aurora Hills Senior Center. “We’re pleased to be able to do that.”

Corletti said funding raised in recent months helped support efforts connecting seniors in Aurora Hills with the moms-and-tots program in the neighborhood, including a tree-trimming event in December – “we had such a lovely time,” she said – and an upcoming ice-cream social.

Like nearly everyone contacted on the issue, Corletti was upbeat but acknowledged the process of finalizing the agreement was no easy task.

“We were very, very happy, [but] it did take a little longer,” she said.

“It did take a long time, but it was a complicated issue,” said Frost, praising staff in the Department of Parks and Recreation, “from top to bottom,” for being supportive.

With the new agreement, there has been “a great uptick of enthusiasm” within the various senior centers, Frost said.

“The word is getting out much more than it had,” he said. “We’ve become much more active.”

Jennifer Collins, the 55+ unit manager with the county government’s Office of Senior Adult Programs, said the Alliance has been “a wonderful partner” for more than 10 years. The arrangement signed in September was evolutionary in nature, she said.

“Our new agreement just documents for transparency how we will continue to work together to enhance recreational opportunities for people 55 and older in Arlington,” Collins said.

One benefit of the agreement is that individuals and businesses that make charitable contributions will be able to claim those donations for tax purposes. The Alliance already has benefited from the support of the James A. Rogers and Patricia Rissler Foundation, and would be happy to speak with any prospective benefactors, Frost said.

“Oh my goodness, yes,” he said.

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