Friday, February 18, 2005

Chamber cites Senior Connection

Center selected as non-profit organization of the year

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Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Senior Center Director Brenda Shappee Photo by David N. Seelig

Fourth in series of 9

From the long list of non-profit organizations in the Wood River Valley, the Blaine County Senior Center has been selected by the Sun Valley & Ketchum Chamber Visitors Bureau as the non-profit of the year.

Leafing through the tall stack of nominations received along with the letter announcing the chamber distinction, Brenda Shappee, the director of the center, read a few of the testimonials, during an interview about the award with the Idaho Mountain Express.

"(The senior center) is so much more than a place for old people to go have lunch," Shappee recited, adding that the organization provides services that people don't expect, like referral services for people whose elderly relatives live out of state. "If a person has a mom in Florida, we can assist by providing contact information we have nationwide," Shappee said.

Other nominators shared their appreciation for the center, dubbed "The Senior Connection," explaining that the many services at the center provide a way for seniors to stay in their homes, and deal with Medicare and insurance questions.

Shappee said the award, which came just following a national accreditation for the center, is an honor that will help the center expand programming, which can include day trips to Jackpot, Nev., and transportation to cultural events.

"Accreditation is a tremendous step. There are a lot of people who worked hard on it and contributed to the process," Shappee said, adding that teamwork in the community reaches beyond the achievements of just the senior center. "What I have noticed is more camaraderie in the last couple of years, everybody working together, and that's key ... all non-profits working together to eliminate duplication of service, to allow us to focus on our areas of expertise."

Shappee, a former hospital administrator, who worked for the former Blaine County Medical Center in Hailey and the Moritz Hospital in Sun Valley, prior to their merger, and who also traveled nationally as a medical record administrator, finally came to the senior center in Hailey 11 years ago.

"It gets better everyday," she said. "Because my mother (Louise Richardson) was very active at the center, it had a more significant meaning. It is more to me than a job. What (the center) did for (my mother) was amazing. It was where she found friends. She folded right into it and it made the difference in her life. I realized, wow, I could make a difference."

Shappee said that, although national accreditation will give the organization more clout with funding sources, the center still faces significant challenges.

"We meet national standards and we're proud of that," Shappee said. But, in addition to finding ways to retain staff, who struggle to afford the cost of living in the valley, the center is also seeking to identify how best to match the needs of the next generation of seniors.

"There is a big difference in how we once dealt with seniors and how we do now," Shappee said, explaining that the center is trying to discover the needs of the baby boomer generation, which is beginning to retire.

"We're out of room. We need to begin to look at expanding or a new site," Shappee said. "There is a perception that the center is only for seniors who are needy or alone. We are not a nursing home. We also want to provide for seniors who are physically fit."

Shappee said she sees a huge opportunity in the valley given the skills of seniors for intergenerational activities. Shappee perceives a need to create active opportunities for seniors, but she is hoping that the public will help bring the ideas forward.

"Build it and they will come, no," Shappee said. "Frankly, we have very affluent seniors. We are hoping to identify new ways to reach those people. We want to know what they want."

Shappee said her next task is to form an advisory group, which will help the senior center restructure.

Make dinner reservations

The 8th Annual Community Awards Night will be held at the River Run Lodge on March 18. Social hour will begin at 7 p.m. and dinner and the awards ceremony will begin at 8 p.m. Local veteran entertainer Chris Millspaugh will perform "The Way I See It" after the awards ceremony. Tickets are $45 per person. Call Angela Shetler at 725-2103 or e-mail your reservation request to

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