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Local leaders recognized at first national aging conference in COVID-19 era

Arlington, VA, June 8, 2020 — Today, the National Council on Aging (NCOA), a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well, is honoring four individuals and one organization from around the country who are working toward a just and caring society that allows all of us to age with dignity, purpose, and security. The honorees are being recognized at the NCOA 2020 Age+Action Virtual Conference, June 8-11.

“We are incredibly proud to recognize these outstanding local leaders who are working in communities every day to ensure that our older loved ones are healthy and safe,” said Jim Knickman, NCOA Interim President & CEO. “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, these trailblazers were providing critical services like meals, benefits counseling, and transportation to enable older adults to stay independent. Today, their work is even more life-saving.”

Below are the NCOA 2020 Trailblazers in Aging honorees by category. NCOA also produced a video spotlighting the work of these dedicated professionals.

Innovator Award

This award recognizes an individual or organization that has created innovative solutions to improve the health and economic security of older adults in the community.

Tim Getty

Tim Getty is the Regional Nutrition Program Coordinator for Heritage Area Agency on Aging in Cedar Rapids, IA. He oversees the Older Americans Act regional nutrition program in seven counties, serving 100,000 meals annually. When the congregate meal program’s participation declined 74% in six years, Getty led an innovative project called Encore Café, which offers a salad bar, choice menu, table service, evidence-based health programming, and produce boxes in partnership with local food banks. Before the project, Linn County served 35 older adult participants. Within two years of implementation, the project served 1,234 participants 17,348 meals. Its average voluntary contribution rates also increased by 133%. The project is now being replicated in other Iowa counties.

“I am beyond honored to receive this prestigious award and am beyond grateful for the continued support of our local team, volunteers, and participants of this initiative,” Getty said.

Change Agent

This award recognizes an individual or organization working to ensure that every person—regardless of race, income, or background—has the resources to age well.

Amanda Lee

Amanda Lee is CEO and co-founder of Happy50Plus, a socially conscious and consumer-centric free membership organization that helps the underserved Chinese American, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) 50+ population in Southern California. As many as 70% of this immigrant population has limited English proficiency or no English-speaking skills. Happy50Plus serves more than 2,500 AAPI older adults by providing in-language information, resources, and learning opportunities to members, their families, and caregivers. During COVID-19, it has become a trusted source for many monolingual and socially isolated older people. Before starting Happy50Plus, Lee provided culturally appropriate in-language television programming for viewers aged 55+.

“Happy50Plus is a community-based, volunteer-driven organization with a passion to provide in-language virtual, online, and in-person activities,” Lee said. “We look forward to working with NCOA and other organizations to provide even more information, services, and resources to the older Chinese/AAPI Americans in the community.”

Public Private Partnership Award

This award recognizes organizations that have established powerful partnerships that build bridges between the public and private sectors to empower every person to age well.

Servicios de la Raza

The Servicios de La Raza (Servicios), Denver, CO, mission is to provide and advocate for culturally responsive essential human services and opportunities. Founded in 1972, Servicios serves low- and moderate-income Colorado communities irrespective of age, race, gender, or sexual orientation with respect and dignity. Services include, but are not limited to, a food pantry, clothing bank, benefits enrollment, behavioral health, victim services, ex-offender re-entry, and workforce development. For many, Servicios is the “life-blood” of the Latinx community in Metro Denver and across Colorado, standing up to intolerance and sweeping regulations like “public charge” that had a chilling effect on refugee and immigrant communities. They continue to move boldly forward through the uncertainties of COVID-19 and shine a light on those disproportionately impacted with the most social and economic challenges.

“Mil gracias to NCOA for this significant award and recognition; however, even more important, mil gracias to NCOA for their partnership in serving our aging Colorado community,” said Rudy Gonzales, Executive Director.

NISC Founders Award

This award recognizes exemplary and long-standing service to the senior center field.

Jill Hall

Jill Hall is Chief of the Senior Centers and Community Services Division at Baltimore County Department of Aging, Towson, MD. She has been a senior center leader for more than 22 years. Hall leads a division of 20 senior centers, many of which have been nationally accredited by NCOA. She is a four-time President of the Maryland Association of Senior Centers, and has chaired initiatives to dispel ageist stereotypes and promote brain fitness, social isolation, and senior wellness. Hall has served on the Executive Committee of NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC) for the past eight years. During that time, she developed and led its Programs of Excellence Awards. This month, Hall will become NISC Chair-Elect.

“Throughout my career, I have benefitted from the exceptional resources and leading-edge programs developed by NCOA and NISC,” Hall said. “I am excited to be continuing to serve this wonderful agency.”

NISC State Leader Award

This award recognizes a state leader who keeps senior centers at the forefront of aging issues within their state or region.

David Stevens

David Stevens has been Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of Councils on Aging (MCOA) since 1994. MCOA advocates to advance policies that effectively address the needs of older adults, family caregivers, and people with disabilities. Under Stevens’ leadership, MCOA provides lobbying, training, technical assistance, and grants to its 350 municipal members. MCOA is modeled closely after NCOA with four main pillars: Economic Security, Healthy Aging, Outreach to Underserved Populations, and Training and Technical Assistance to local councils.

“It is an honor to receive this recognition from an organization that I deeply admire, but I only accept this on behalf of all of the 350 Councils on Aging in our Commonwealth that have all contributed to MCOA’s success,” Stevens said. “Those who are currently serving on the frontline of our communities, providing services in this time of COVID-19, are the true trailblazers.”

About NCOA

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is a trusted national leader working to ensure that every person can age well. Since 1950, our mission has not changed: Improve the lives of millions of older adults, especially those who are struggling. NCOA empowers people with the best solutions to improve their own health and economic security—and we strengthen government programs that we all depend on as we age. Every year, millions of people use our signature programs BenefitsCheckUp®, My Medicare Matters®, and the Aging Mastery Program® to age well. By offering online tools and collaborating with a nationwide network of partners, NCOA is working to improve the lives of 40 million older adults by 2030. Learn more at ncoa.org and @NCOAging.