PITTSBORO, NC – Chatham County and the Chatham County Council on Aging received the Ernest B. Messer Award from the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services at the February 19 meeting of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners. The Messer Award recognizes a community that has excelled in addressing the needs of its older residents.
The award is named for the late Ernest B. Messer, a respected champion for aging in the State General Assembly and past assistant secretary for aging for the NC Department of Health and Human Services between 1981 and 1985.
In presenting the award. Joyce Massey-Smith, director of the NC Division of Aging and Adult Services, noted that for nearly 45 years Chatham has looked to its Council on Aging to serve as the primary portal for older adults, family caregivers and the general community to access information, services and programs. “The Council and its two state-designated Senior Centers of Excellence have consistently met this expectation well.”
Massey-Smith shared a few of the many reasons why the state division chose Chatham and the County on Aging for this prestigious honor.
She first cited Chatham’s development of its five-year comprehensive plan for aging, with emphasis on transportation, housing, health care, caregiving, and social connectedness and community engagement. “This plan represents Chatham’s commitment to helping seniors remain healthy, engaged and able to live safely and securely in their homes.”
Mike Dasher, who chairs the Board of Commissioners, said, “That our Council on Aging undertook a major planning process on the heels of the county’s more extensive 25-Year Comprehensive Plan says volumes about the Council’s leadership. They now have a roadmap to guide their work for the next five years. This award is well deserved.”
Massey-Smith highlighted the Senior Education Conference that the Council on Aging holds in conjunction with Cooperative Extension as an outstanding example of how much Chatham values continuous learning.
She said that Chatham developed a collaborative database for home modifications and repairs that now serves as a model. This effort earned an award from the NC Association of County Commissioners in 2017.
“The fact that the Council has over 285 active volunteers helping with Meals on Wheels, minor home repair, VITA, SHIIP, and other activities is symbolic of a caring and loving community,” added Massey-Smith. “The Council is helping vulnerable seniors continue to live in their community.”
She also said that Chatham can proudly claim that it had the state’s fourth highest percentage increase in Senior Games and SilverArts participation between 2016 and 2018. “And, registration is already underway for this year’s competition.”
The award acknowledges the Council on Aging’s effective use of student interns. “Capitalizing on the talents and energy of students paves the way for innovation, but perhaps more importantly brings together the generations,” Massey-Smith said.
In accepting the award for both Chatham County and the Council on Aging, Dennis W. Streets, director of the Council on Aging, remarked, “Excellence in service is Chatham’s ultimate aim and measure—the Council’s staff, volunteers, student interns, and our many community partners work to achieve this daily through all we do—in connection with and with the support of county government.”
Massey-Smith concluded her presentation of the award by praising the Board of Commissioners for “making a strong statement about the value of our older population through your support of the Council on Aging, its sister agencies and those they serve. Clearly, your efforts in Chatham align well with the purpose of the Ernest B. Messer Award. The late Mr. Messer understood well what it takes to tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by an aging population, as Chatham is experiencing. Mr. Messer would be proud that Chatham is the recipient of this honor.”
Dennis W. Streets, director of the Chatham County Council on Aging, accepts the Ernest B. Messer Award from Joyce Massey-Smith, director of the NC Division of Aging and Adult Services. This is the top statewide award recognizing communities for excelling in meeting the needs of older residents.