Gale Spry

HJ photo/James D. Wolf Jr.

Gale Spry, executive director, White County Council on Aging

MONTICELLO — There are a lot of misconceptions about what the White County Council on Aging does and is, said Gale Spry, the executive director.

At Monday’s Monticello Kiwanis meeting, she tried to clear up those misconceptions. That included explaining the different services that organization offers — and not just to senior citizens.

The White County Public Transit also helps those who can’t get around, from the disabled to mothers without a way to get children to a doctor, Spry said.

But the council is its own entity and not-for-profit, not a branch of White County government.

“We rely heavily on donations, as the food pantry does,” she said.

The council’s annual budget of $364,906 is funded by donations and grants.

For government grants, the Council on Aging cannot apply directly for state funding, such as Title IV, because it’s not a government entity.

So the White County Commissioners are the official applicants, even though she writes the grants and the money all goes to her organization.

The services the Council on Aging offers include the senior center in its building at 116 E. Marion St. in Monticello.

“It is one of the nicest senior centers in the state, and we can thank (former Monticello Mayor) Mary Walters for that,” she said.

Walters spearheaded having a new building because it would’ve been less expensive than retrofitting others buildings.

The building will be 21 years old in August, and it’s open five days a week and serves lunches Tuesday through Friday.

Those younger than 60 will have to pay for the meal, where seniors can give a donation.

Those who want to eat should call the day before, she said.

Some people just show in the morning to read the papers and play cards.

The staff tries to answer questions about Social Security, Medicare and insurance, and there are volunteers trained in insurance to help with Medicare supplements.

If the staff can’t answer a question, they’ll find out, Spry said.

Among other things, the center also has:

  • A nurse to check on things such as blood pressure every Thursday.
  • Educational speakers once a month.
  • Bingo twice a week.
  • Free tax preparation Wednesdays and Fridays until tax time.
  • The ability to help acquire utility credits for those on fixed incomes.

The Council on Aging’s ride program — and its eight vehicles — runs weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and needs 24 hours notice.

It also is 75 percent of the organization’s budget.

“That is our main business,” Spry said. “It’s not just a senior bus.”

Because the service is government funded, it can’t be limited to one group.

The ride system can take mothers to doctors if the husband has the car at work, can take people with revoked licenses to places they need to go, take people on probation to see their probation officers, or to drug or alcohol abuse classes.

Four mornings a week, the Council on Aging provides rides to Lafayette for medical treatments that can’t be received in White County, such as radiation therapy.

For seniors, having the service to get groceries and run errands rather than having to rely on their children or neighbors gives independence.

“We take a lot away from seniors as they get older — their car, their homes. This is something they can still have,” Spry said.

Spry said she is often asked what there is for seniors to do in the county.

Area IV and Springer-Voorhis-Draper Funeral Home sponsor day trips, there are free movies in Lafayette the second Wednesday of each month and there are $1 movies at Twin Lakes Cinema the third Wednesday of the month, among other things.

Spry also said that starting April 9, the senior center will have a support group for grieving.