2022 Honorees

Innovator Award

This award recognizes an individual or organization who has created innovative solutions to improve the health and economic security of older adults in the community.  It is in honor of Jack Ossofsky, a former NCOA president who launched numerous successful programs and promoted the true promises of an aging society.

S. Orlene Grant, President and CEO, Juanita C. Grant Foundation  

Orlene Grant is a visionary who started the Juanita C. Grant Foundation in Capitol Heights, Maryland, seven years ago with a mission to “improve the quality of life for older adults through economic stability, education, and training.”

S. Orlene Grant (pictured on right), the 2022 recipient of the Innovator Award

Under her leadership, the foundation has created multiple programs that remove the stigma of aging, provide training to support older adults’ retention in the workplace, and educate individuals on how to reduce financial scams and elder abuse.

At the height of the pandemic, Grant launched the Village Connector Experience, a free outreach program designed to disrupt social isolation among older adults. Volunteers received 16 hours of structured training in customer service, goal setting, and computer skills to conduct regular outreach to older adults who signed up for support. The program soon expanded to include online group events and has since served over 750 members in 22 states, including the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.  

“It is an honor to be selected for NCOA’s 2022 Innovator Award in recognition of the Juanita C. Grant Foundation’s Village Connector Experience structured outreach call service to older adults increasing social connectedness with friends, family, and the community.”  – S. Orlene Grant, RN MSN, President, Founder, and CEO, Juanita C. Grant Foundation   

Change Agent Award

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. It is in honor of Frankie Freeman, a civil rights attorney and former NCOA Board member who was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. 

Nora Moreno Cargie, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship, and President, Point32Health Foundation

Nora Moreno Cargie centers social justice and racial equity in all her work. She is a leader in addressing the complex social challenges affecting older people who have experienced health disparities due to systemic racism. A steadfast supporter of diversity and inclusion, she challenges partners to engage all communities, authentically and inclusively.

Nora Moreno Cargie, the 2022 recipient of the Change Agent Award

Under her leadership, the foundation provided millions of dollars during the pandemic to engage older people in systems-level change to remove barriers and ensure an equitable response to COVID-19. 

Moreno Cargie has served on the Governor’s Council to Address Aging in Massachusetts and has been a major force behind the age-friendly community movement in New England, spurring cities and towns to focus on becoming better places to grow old. Today, there are a nation-leading 76 age-friendly communities in Massachusetts, along with more than 60 that have signed a dementia-friendly pledge. 

“I am humbled by this recognition—it strengthens my resolve to continue to be a disrupter, to work vigilantly toward eliminating the racism and bias embedded in our systems, and to follow community in identifying solutions to the issues that matter to them." – Nora Moreno Cargie, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship, and President, Point32Health Foundation 

Join our movement to create communities that work for people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. It is a moral imperative,” Moreno Cargie said.

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. It is in honor of Arthur Flemming, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Eisenhower, U.S. Commissioner on Aging under President Nixon, recipient of two Presidential Medals of Freedom, and a tireless advocate for older adults. 

Nationwide Financial 

Over the past 90 years, focusing on customers and valuing people have helped Nationwide become one of the largest insurance and financial services companies in the world. This focus on people includes a commitment to forming strong partnership with nonprofits to achieve greater impact.

Nationwide Financial, the 2022 recipient of the Public Private Partnership Award

Since 2019, Nationwide has been a collaborative partner in NCOA’s efforts to improve the health and economic security of older adults. It has supported NCOA in the creation of the online Age Well Planner, Medicare education and guidance, and research initiatives drawing on both organizations’ collective expertise. Together, Nationwide and NCOA have reached hundreds of thousands of older adults across the country and continue to partner for greater impact. 

Our powerful partnership with NCOA is based on our shared values and passion for helping more Americans achieve a secure retirement." – Kristi Martin Rodriguez, Senior Vice President, Nationwide Retirement Institute

"Whether that’s focusing on the unique financial planning needs of women—or the broader population of those planning for or living in retirement, we’ve found some great opportunities to work together to advocate for retirement savers and help them plan for the future,” Rodriguez said.

NISC Founders Award

This award recognizes exemplary and long-standing service to the senior center field. It is in honor of the nine founders of NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Centers. 

Elizabeth Bernat, MHA, Director of Senior Services, Roper St. Francis Health 

Elizabeth Bernat, the 2022 recipient of the NISC Founders Award

Elizabeth Bernat is an experienced and dedicated senior center director in Charleston, South Carolina. She has worked at Lowcountry Senior Center for 20 years, serving as the director for the past 15 years. Bernat also oversaw the development and opening of Waring Senior Center in 2019. The two senior centers are a public-private partnership between the City of Charleston and hospital system.

A passionate leader who is always seeking to improve the field, Bernat has served NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC) in various capacities, including as an accreditation peer reviewer, chair of the Improving Health Team, member of the Executive Committee for seven years, and NISC Chair for two years. In her free time, she coordinates a small Meals on Wheels program for her church. 

Senior centers are my passion. I can’t imagine a better way to spend my career. I have seen firsthand the difference senior centers make in the lives of older adults, both in my community and communities across the country," Bernat said.

"I am honored to work in this realm of aging. I am continually impressed by the creativity, innovation, and dedication of senior center professionals across the county and am so thankful to NISC for keeping us all connected and elevating the work of senior centers.” – Elizabeth Bernat, MHA, Director of Senior Services, Roper St. Francis Health 

Distinguished Service Award

This award recognizes NCOA employees and volunteers who have made major contributions to NCOA’s mission and social impact. It is in honor of Geneva Mathiasen, NCOA’s first executive director who spent her career building the foundation for a lasting organization. 

Alixe McNeill, Former Vice President, Program Development, NCOA  

Alixe McNeill was a national leader who helped establish NCOA as a leading force for innovation in aging services. Her special talent was to combine a passion for innovation with a deep understanding of program development. 

Alixe McNeill, the 2022 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award

McNeill was instrumental in designing nationally recognized evidence-based health promotion programs such as Healthy IDEAS and the Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives (PEARLS). Both continue to improve the lives of thousands of older adults every day. McNeill served as chair of the National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging, and she helped design and obtain funding for many key NCOA initiatives, including Family Friends, Faith in Action, economic casework programs, BenefitsCheckUp®, and civic engagement programs.  

Alixe was a key leader in helping NCOA go from a good to a great organization and a cherished friend and colleague.”  – James Firman, Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, BellAge 

2021 Honorees

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. It is in honor of Jack Ossofsky, a former NCOA president who launched numerous successful programs and promoted the true promises of an aging society.

Senior Citizens Home Assistance Service, Inc. (SCHAS)

In its 50th year, SCHAS embarked on a challenge of pandemic proportions. When the nation shut down, the staff found a way to keep current employees paid while delivering essential supplies to older adults in rural and urban East Tennessee. Within four days, the team raised $20,000, created an online and phone intake system, and began marketing a service to shop for older adults and people with COVID who could not leave their homes. No one was turned away from the SCHAS Out Shopping (SOS) program, and it allowed individuals to order their own food, cleaning supplies, and toiletry items to be delivered to their doorstep at no cost. Those who could afford items paid by cash, credit, or SNAP card. A third of recipients had no resources and received their requested items for free. The program saved lives and prevented financial exploitation of some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

"We have so many stories to tell from this program, but the message is the same. No matter your circumstances in life, you can have hope, your fears can be removed, and love can be given and received. Dignity does not have to disappear as we age." - Tim Howell, CEO, Senior Citizens Home Assistance Service, Inc.

Change Agent Award

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. It is in honor of Frankie Freeman, a civil rights attorney and former NCOA Board member who was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Dr. Steven Wallace, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Dr. Steven Wallace was an internationally renowned scholar on health disparities among older adults, immigrants, and communities of color. He led the effort to have California adopt the Elder Economic Security Standard Index as the official cost-of-living measure for older adults in the state. He championed teams that developed innovative, community-based methods to increase the use of clinical preventive services among older adults of color in Los Angeles. Nationally, Dr. Wallace created the consortium of Resource Centers for Minority Aging Research with a goal of increasing the diversity of the workforce on aging research. A tireless advocate for the rights of immigrants, he served as the principal investigator on the NIH-funded RIGHTS Study that examined how Latin and Asian American populations in California were excluded in health care, social welfare, employment, education, and law enforcement. Throughout his 40-year career, Dr. Wallace was also an impactful and beloved mentor to dozens of students and professionals in the field.

"Steve was committed to ensuring that older adults, especially underserved communities, have access to resources to age with health and financial security. His work in California and nationally spotlighted disparities that still need to be addressed, and we will sorely miss his leadership." - Laura Trejo, General Manager, Los Angeles Department of Aging

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. It is in honor of Arthur Flemming, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Eisenhower, U.S. Commissioner on Aging under President Nixon, recipient of two Presidential Medals of Freedom, and a tireless advocate for older adults.

Bank of America Charitable Foundation

Bank of America is guided by a common purpose to help make financial lives better, through the power of every connection. The Bank of America Charitable Foundation is committed to forming strong partnerships with nonprofits to bring together collective networks and expertise to achieve greater impact. For more than 10 years, the Foundation has been a trusted and collaborative partner in NCOA’s efforts to improve the economic security of older adults, especially those who are struggling. It has supported initiatives to connect limited-income, Black, and Hispanic-Latino older adults to benefits through NCOA’s BenefitsCheckUp®. It also has supported NCOA initiatives to create an online Age Well Planner, provide casework to victims of natural disasters, and educate older adults about benefits, scams, and prepaid debit cards. Through this partnership, NCOA and Bank of America have reached hundreds of thousands of older adults.

"We are grateful for this recognition and are proud of our continued partnership with NCOA in helping low-income seniors build financial security. Providing integrated services from job placement to health and transportation resources is essential to promoting economic self-sufficiency and stability to a population in need." - Kerry Sullivan, President, Bank of America Charitable Foundation

NISC Founders Award

This award recognizes exemplary and long-standing service to the senior center field. It is in honor of the nine founders of NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Centers.

Denise Niese, Executive Director, Wood County Committee on Aging

Denise Niese has led the Wood County Committee on Aging since 2005. An advocate for older adults, she is Past President of the Ohio Association of Senior Centers and served as Treasurer for the NISC Delegate Council. Niese led the effort to update the NCOA Senior Center Standards of Excellence to accommodate online submissions for subsequent accreditations. She finds value in NISC for her professional development and networking and believes accreditation benefits senior centers and their communities. She successfully secured a $1.6 million capital grant to build a new senior center in Wood County, the largest State of Ohio capital grant ever awarded in the county to a nonprofit. In her community, Niese also serves on the advisory committee for the Woodhaven Healthcare nursing home, Wood County Job and Family Services, and the Ohio Association of Senior Centers Board.

"I am honored and humbled to receive the 2021 NISC Founders Award. Through the years, I have benefitted by the many mentors who have passed through my personal and professional life. Many of those individuals in the field of aging have been connected to me through NCOA/NISC opportunities. As we continue to serve older adults in our communities, it is imperative that NCOA/NISC remains a strong network and resource to support our efforts at the local level." - Denise Niese, Executive Director, Wood County Committee on Aging

Exceptional Service Award

This award recognizes individuals or organizations that went above and beyond to deliver timely and life-saving services to older adults during the pandemic.

WellMed Charitable Foundation

When COVID-19 vaccines became available in January, the WellMed Charitable Foundation quickly partnered with WellMed Medical Management to convert empty senior centers into mass vaccination centers. Working with city and county agencies and other health organizations, they established sites in low-income, diverse neighborhoods with high rates of COVID. The sites administered over 250,000 shots, with 57% provided to Hispanic/Latino populations and 73% to people aged 50 and older. Dining rooms became hubs for vaccinations, and pool tables were removed to create a socially distanced waiting area. Volunteers included an occasional guitarist tucked in among the exercise equipment to keep participants calm and entertained. The Foundation also invested more than $400,000 to build software to allow vaccination data to be transferred directly into the state health database, eliminating the need for 50 volunteers a day. The effort has filled the senior centers with joy and hope until members are finally able to return.

"The opportunity to take our shuttered senior activity centers and use them to distribute over 250,000 COVID-19 vaccinations in partnership with our WellMed providers and staff has been a humbling but powerful experience that has reminded us that we change lives one at a time." - Carol Zernial, Executive Director, WellMed Charitable Foundation

Distinguished Service Award

This award recognizes NCOA employees and volunteers who have made major contributions to NCOA’s mission and social impact. It is in honor of Geneva Mathiasen, NCOA’s first executive director who spent her career building the foundation for a lasting organization.

James Firman, Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, BellAge

For more than 40 years, Firman has been a leading force for innovation in services, programs, and public policies for older adults. As president and CEO of NCOA for 25 years, he was a national leader in consumer education, benefits access, economic security, and healthy aging for older adults. In 2020, Firman co-founded BellAge to improve public health through artificial intelligence and emerging technologies. BellAge’s initial focus has been keeping older adults safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We serve a great cause. Keep going. Seize the moment!" - Jim Firman, Founder & Chief Innovation Officer, BellAge

 

2020 Honorees

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. It is in honor of Jack Ossofsky, a former NCOA president who launched numerous successful programs and promoted the true promises of an aging society.

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.”

Change Agent Award

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. It is in honor of Frankie Freeman, a civil rights attorney and former NCOA Board member who was the first woman appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

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. 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. It is in honor of Arthur Flemming, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Eisenhower, U.S. Commissioner on Aging under President Nixon, recipient of two Presidential Medals of Freedom, and a tireless advocate for older adults.

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.”  - Rudy Gonzales, Executive Director

NISC Founders Award

This award recognizes exemplary and long-standing service to the senior center field. It is in honor of the nine founders of NCOA’s National Institute of Senior Centers.

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. 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. Those who are currently serving on the frontline of our communities, providing services in this time of COVID-19, are the true trailblazers.”