Nonprofit spotlight: The Council on Aging of Buncombe County relies on the kindness of its community

Logo courtesy of the Council on Aging of Buncombe County, Inc.
Logo courtesy of the Council on Aging of Buncombe County, Inc.

What do you do?
Provide services, support and information to help folks with the challenges of getting older. Services range from Medicare enrollment classes to providing at-risk older adults with emergency 911 cell phones. Annually, as of June 2011, the Council on Aging interacts with approximately 3,500 persons aged 60 and older and their caregivers.

Has the organization had a significant change in revenue recently?
Two of our programs have seen significant cuts in recent years from private and government sources. Provided by the Older American’s Act, Congregate Meals and community social services (our Resource Coordination program) are funded by a combination of federal, state and county funds. Additionally, Resource Coordination receives United Way funding. In 2012, the United Way allocation decreased [by] $23,235 and another $10,736 in 2013. Funding for this also decreased by $18,900 in 2009 and has remained flat since then. Congregate Meals is subject to sequester rules, meaning we had to return or give back $8,847 in this most recent fiscal quarter; In Home Aide services also are subject to sequester although at a lower rate; we will see further sequester-related reductions in fiscal year 2014.

How have you dealt with these changes?
COA continues to keep a balanced budget through careful use of funds, applying for grants that support our mission and community need. Staff are not guaranteed annual raises, and some have taken pay cuts or reduced hours. Our phone system was donated; much of our office furniture was donated; most of our training [is] low-cost; we work with local colleges for social work intern placements, which helps expand staff. Our biggest gift is from The Deerfield Retirement community, [which] generously provides needed office space [that] helps us devote more funds to services and we do; much of this space was furnished and they have allowed us to expand when needed.

What is the outlook for your organization?
There are more persons aged 60 [and older] than aged 17 and under in Buncombe County, and 67 percent of those aged 65 and older live at poverty or near-poverty levels. There is no question that there will continue to be a need for the services that the Council on Aging provides. Our Strategic Plan focuses on expanding our community support and development efforts, improving marketing and awareness, exploring fee-based services and continued partnerships. Our long-term goals include creating more options for services funding and a Senior Resource Center that holds both services and activities that benefit older adults and provides them with a central community location. — Wendy Marsh, director of the Council on Aging of Buncombe County

— Caitlin Byrd can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 140, or at cbyrd@mountainx.com.

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