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Seniors Take Center Stage at Silver Foundation Event

Photo courtesy

The 5th Annual Senior Summit opened to a packed house on May 6 at the Twin Pine Casino Event Center in Middletown. Two days later, in a fortuitous turn of events, the Silver Foundation was selected as the nonprofit of choice in the 100 Women Strong competition to benefit their Senior Companion Pet Project.

The free conference-style event is the signature project of the Lake County Silver Foundation. It is best described as a collaboration among agencies, health service providers, non-profit organizations, and volunteers, all there to support a mutual interest—improving the quality of life for seniors and elders.

Through a partnership with Hospice Services of Lake County, the Summit includes a robust Health and Wellness Fair that brings together service providers who connect directly with seniors at the event. Also, in keeping with this year’s theme, “Your Wellness Matters,” every senior attending  received the most recent “Resource Directory for Older Adults.”  Holly Brownfield, Assistant Specialist from Community Care Senior Information, was the driving force to update the directories and solidify additional funding needed to print them. Holly said up-to-date information is vital for seniors. “It’s truly heartwarming to see so many agencies come together to make this project a reality – and just in time for the Summit,” she said.

Formed to address the gaps in services to seniors, the Silver Foundation supports projects that benefit seniors.  “Seniors are the fastest growing demographic in the County.  Many live in poverty and isolation with limited knowledge of or access to services and little means to change the trajectory of their future,” said Founder Jim Steele.

Steele said the Summit is one way to draw attention to the needs of seniors while also recognizing their contributions to others.  “They are the give-back generation, the volunteers you see in the Meals on Wheels and Senior Center programs, and they are definitely on the Boards of the many nonprofits in our County. That’s the reason we created the Inspirational Senior Awards program, that’s what the awards are about.”

Thirteen seniors and elders nominated by their peers and various service providers were honored; Paul Branson’s award was issued posthumously and received by his wife, Cheri. Also receiving awards this year were Linda Breeding, Clayton Duncan, Verna Hayer, James Hornback, Chloe Karl, Leslie Miller, Gary Mussat, Kathryn Parankema, Neal Petrie, Connie Reitman, Yvonne Warren, and Majella Wilhelm – each one dedicated to serving their communities for many years.

Congressman Mike Thompson helped open the awards ceremony with a video expressing his appreciation for their services. The honorees each received a framed certificate of appreciation from the Congressman as well as a beautifully engraved plaque from the Silver Foundation and a gift. Bernadine Tripp, a former award recipient and now a member of the Silver Foundation, said, “As a former recipient of an award, I can attest to the value of being recognized in this way. I joined the Foundation Board this year to support this and other programs to help our seniors and elders.”

Debbie Clarke, President of the North Shore Business Association, attended the summit for the 2nd time, this year also bringing along her husband, for whom she is a caretaker. “The event puts seniors on center stage which, I believe, is long overdue,” she said.

Claudine Pedroncelli, an inaugural member of the Foundation and manager of Senior Support Services in Upper Lake was at the event representing the Silver Foundation and provided information about the Foundation’s Companion Pet Program.

“I was there, putting on a happy face while inside I was sad, knowing that the program we started to help seniors feed and care for their companion pets was fast running out of funding. My sadness turned to joy when 100 Women Strong chose the Silver Foundation as the winning nonprofit just a couple of days after the Summit,” she said.

Pedroncelli said that seniors often have no place to turn when their sole companion needs medical care – or even food. “I see the need day in and day out and guarantee the funds we receive will make a difference in the lives of seniors with limited means, many of whom also live in relative isolation,” she said.

Also taking center stage at the event were 3 speakers. Joe Prisco, Director of Rehabilitation Services at Sutter Lakeside Hospital, spoke about exercise as medicine; Dr. Bob Gardner, who has 50 years of experience as a physician, spoke about the aging process and took questions from the audience; and Anna Scott, a Security Officer with extensive experience on a local and global level, spoke about the scams that target seniors intending to empty their bank accounts.  Each speaker drew hearty applause for their well-articulated, important messages.

Steele explained that the Summit is one of several projects. “It is our signature project, made possible by the generosity of sponsors,” he said.  Major Sponsors for the 5th Annual Summit were The Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake who have sponsored the event since its inception and Sutter Lakeside Hospital, a first-year event sponsor, who also provided safety kits for participants, staffed a booth at the Summit and sponsored one of the keynote speakers, Joe Prisco.

Other Sponsors include The Sheppers and CALPINE, who have sponsored the Summit since its inception and The Tribal Health Consortium, Inc.; the Rotary Club of Clear Lake; Hardester’s Markets; the Clearlake Oaks-Glenhaven Business Association; and Friends of the Foundation – the Arroyos, Dr. Bob Gardner, Jackie Riche, and the Steele’s.

Several longtime partners also helped out at the Summit, including the outstanding team led by Janine Smith-Citron of Hospice Services; Tammy Alakszay with the AmeriCorps volunteers; Kim Schmitt of KJ Lakeside Graphics; Karen and Samuel Euston of Euston Productions; and the Harrells, Deb and Bill, who managed the telephone and onsite registration. This year, Thomas Dewalt of PEG TV was on hand to videotape the event.

“It is rewarding to see so many resources pull together for seniors,” said Foundation Cofounder/Secretary, Olga Steele.  

The day ended with surveys, an essential aspect of the event. Responses will help inform and improve future Summits. “In the meantime, seniors are encouraged to take stock of the information in the reusable tote bag provided by the Foundation,” Steele said. “The bags have become a necessary tool to carry the mountain of information and conference favors provided by the service providers, including the all-important printed, up-to-date resource directory,” she said.

Excerpts from Senior Summit 2024, as well as previous Senior Summits, are available at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLKeloccnAfWNuZEiHHjC4UykbCjk6Cd2s.  To learn more about the work of the Silver Foundation and stay posted on future plans, visit the website at www.lakecountysilverfoundation.org or call 707-295-6198.

Curated by The Bloom Staff

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