33% of $30,000 goal
It may have been a popular song in the 1970s, but the refrain of "What A Long Strange Trip It's Been" is certainly appropriate as we approach the end of 2022.
Through the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council on Aging defied the challenges before it and adapted its services to continue the vital mission of preserving the independence of Chatham County's seniors while keeping them in their homes for as long as possible. Through the use of virtual programming and our friendly caller program, we remained a vital lifeline to those who would be otherwise isolated. Our Council was selected by Meals on Wheels America to be one of just six programs nationally to participate in a research study by Brown University on programs designed to address social connection and loneliness.
But indeed, it's time to gather again. There is no substitute for face-to-face interaction, and on August 1, the Council officially opened the doors to its renovated and expanded Eastern Chatham Senior Center in Pittsboro after a closure of over two years. Activities and classes are underway at both of our centers. Sounds of hubbub and laughter have returned to the Eastern Center on a daily basis. Meanwhile, Eastern Center manager Liz Lahti and Western Center manager Kathryn Walters have reinvigorated our buildings with a flood of fresh ideas and energy.
In April, the Council welcomed a new director, Ashlyn Martin, upon the retirement of Dennis Streets in February. Dennis guided the agency through some of its most challenging times and will always be a dear friend to our Council. The Dennis W. Streets Eastern Center Addition stands as a testament to his vision.
An exciting milestone was officially reached in late June when an agreement was finalized for the Council to become a full department within Chatham County. While this will have no effect on your day-to-day usage and patronage of our facilities, it puts the Council - currently serving Chatham seniors in its 48th year - in a strong position to continue its crucial services for the next 48 years.
The demand for a robust Council will only increase into the future. Of North Carolina's 100 counties, the NC State Demographer's Office reported that Chatham had the 10th-highest percentage of population 65 years of age and over (28.2%) in 2022. It is clear that older adults are voluntarily choosing Chatham County as their place to enjoy the "golden years."
Indeed, we are an aging community by any objective metric. With momentum at its back, the Council stands ready to serve this accelerated need in a post-COVID world. But we need your help if we are to remain on this ambitious course.
Last year, your generosity was on display in a breathtaking manner as we raised a record total of $29,000 in our 2021 Annual Appeal. However, as we get back to what we enjoy most - interacting with our seniors in-person - we want to send a clear message that a Council operating on all cylinders will not be thrown off course. In 2022, we are setting a goal of $30,000 for this year's Appeal.
More seniors are seeking the Council's services than ever before. As you consider your holiday giving, it is our wish that you will consider the Council and the role it will inevitably play in our aging community.
Wishing you a healthy and happy holiday season,
Johnny Shaw, Board President
Ashlyn Martin, Director