Ways of Helping
Supporting Aging in Community
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A Short History
The Older Americans Act (OAA), signed in 1965, established the Administration on Aging to address a lack of social services for elders. State agencies began developing community-based services and providing some funding for the creation of local nutrition and transportation programs.
In 1972, a kick-off luncheon was hosted by the First Congregational Church in Lebanon and organized by the University of New Hampshire. Topics of concern were housing, transportation, recreational activities, spiritual well-being, health, employment and retirement. Among those attending the first meeting, 14 people became charter members of a new community organization. The group created articles of agreement and bylaws. A steering committee began the difficult work of setting up the fledgling nonprofit – the Lebanon Senior Citizens Council.
Before any federal funding arrived, the council began a self supporting Meals on Wheels (MOW) program with a $3,024 donation from the Spaulding Potter Charitable Trust to purchase food containers. The first meals were prepared at Mary Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Hanover, NH, through the courtesy of Dorothea Bartlett, head dietician at the hospital. Molly Arnold was the first Meals on Wheels volunteer supervisor and was credited with establishing “a strong and viable program.”
Once federal funding arrived and a $1,400 match was received from the newly formed United Way, the council hired staff: Anna Pluhar, director; Helene Chapman, bookkeeper; Molly Arnold, site manager and Meals on Wheels manager; Sally Peters, cook; and Shirley Hubbard, telephone reassurance organizer. To reflect its broader mission and wider community involvement, the agency name was changed to the Upper Valley Senior Citizens Council.
Transportation services began in November 1973, with the arrival of a VW bus provided by the state. Frank O’Shaughnessy was the first part-time driver because – according to meeting minutes – “he knew the standard shift.” Referrals from physicians, social agencies, clergy, friends and families quickly grew the program to the point where the kitchen at MHMH could no longer handle the swell of activity, so meals were prepared on the second floor of the Carter Community Building which the Council had rented because of kitchen and dining room space for community lunches.
By early 1975, the Upper Valley Council “was designated as the Grantee for nutrition in Grafton County by the state.” Months later the Upper Valley Council was asked to manage senior transportation services for the whole county. Council meeting minutes show some apprehension at this designation. “The assignment was accepted with
reluctance since the original group was now being expanded county wide.” Meals on Wheels began operating out of the Masonic Lodge in Canaan, NH, – the first off-site meal location. Soon GCSCC was managing nutrition sites in Littleton and Plymouth and, by 1977, nutrition programs had begun in Orford, Woodsville, Lincoln, and later in Bristol. Around this time the name of the council was changed to Grafton County Senior Citizens Council to reflect the county-wide mission.