"My mom worked in
a nursing home when I was young, and I always
thought, 'I am definitely not going to do that; I really don't like
it,'" she said. "Then when I got out of high school, the job that
was open was in a nursing home."
Now the community nurse liaison at the Christian Village, Cook
says she can't envision a more fulfilling career. "Being in the
environment in a different way, being more mature … I really liked
it," she said. "I think as you get older you think differently, you
know, and you care more, and you want to make a difference in
That passion came in handy four years ago when Healthy
Communities Partnership, a grass-roots organization started in 1997
to make Logan County "the healthiest community in America," came
looking for volunteers to staff its Senior Issues Task Force.
After being involved with the task force for two years, Cook
became the co-chair alongside Georgina Binzen. Since then they've
worked toward their mission to decrease crime against Logan County
seniors and to educate them on available resources by providing
services that are both informational and fun.
Last month, the task force presented a senior resource fair at
the Lincoln Park District complex, where seniors from the community
could browse vendor tables to learn about and sign up for services
available to them. The vendors, which numbered 25, included agencies
such as Lifeline, Medicare and nursing homes around town.
One booth advertised a senior dance coming up this November at
the American Legion.
Cook says these activities are the byproducts of brainstorming
sessions within the task force.
"We try to get more members all the time for more input, more
synergy, and it really helps to bounce ideas off each other, you
know -- what is the need?" she said. "Like Georgina works at The
Oasis, where they hear of all kinds of needs for the community. So
then she brings in what she knows, and that's how we come up with
"We also have a senior who sits on the task force, and she
actually represents AARP also -- Judy Morrow. So she's like our
senior that tells us, 'This is what my friends are saying,' or 'This
is what I feel is the need,' so we get input actually from the
One objective the task force formed was to get senior resource
manuals into seniors' hands. The
manuals, also available online on the Healthy Communities
website, are essentially phone books with the contact
information of agencies specific to their needs: elder abuse and
neglect services, home care aides, and pharmaceutical assistance, to
name a few.
"We did a big distribution a couple months ago of over probably
750 of (the manuals)," Cook said. "People on the task force actually
took them around to some of the outlying towns, to places like the
post office, where someone would give them out, and we took them up
to the library. Everybody helped out to get them distributed. It was
just an easy way to help out as much as possible."
To help achieve another one of their goals, preventing crimes
against seniors, members of the task force partnered with the local
triad of law enforcement, service agencies and seniors.
Just last month, they organized the SALT Council, which stands
for Seniors And Law Together.
"With SALT, we're going to be having some events such as
awareness of what is Medicare fraud, what is out there, car safety
check and some fun events too," Cook said. "We want to try to
prevent crimes against seniors and make them feel more safe and
fearless about what could happen out there."
[to top of second column]
Kristin Lessen, director of the Healthy Communities Partnership,
says one hope she has for the partnership is the synthesis of the
various task forces to consolidate resources.
"We try to get as many of these agencies and organizations to
work together to decrease duplication of services, because there are
a lot of different organizations trying to do a lot of the same
things, and that's kind of counterproductive," Lessen said.
Aligning with this mindset, the Senior Issues Task Force looks to
other branches of the partnership to aid them in their mission.
"We've done a little bit of work with the Parish Nurse Task
Force," Cook said. "We try to learn what they're hearing or what
they're doing because they're in their churches helping seniors a
lot of times. And we try to incorporate the resources that are
already there and what they know."
As the Senior Issues Task Force grows and responsibilities
multiply, Cook cites passion as the reason behind her and her
co-volunteers' continued commitment to the Healthy Communities
"(My favorite part) absolutely has to be helping the seniors:
helping someone learn something new, making their day and them going
away with something that's going to make it easier for them or add
some kind of quality to their life," she said. "I think we don't
always realize how much one small gesture can mean to somebody and
that somebody really does care … especially people that are
overlooked, and sometimes seniors are."
[By LINDSEY BOERMA]
Previous articles in series: The
story of Healthy Communities Partnership