Commission on Aging to give out first Silver Citizen Award

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The Clark County Commission on Aging is set to present its first Silver Citizen Award during the commission's next monthly meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 18. 

Beginning at 4:30 p.m., the commission will recognize Vancouver resident Evelyn Hallet with the Silver Citizen Award. 

Hallet, 93, is a longtime resident of the area who has served as a commissioner on the Vancouver Housing Authority (VHA) since 2014. 

“Some things that stuck out to me are that she advocates for adequate housing and advocates for homeless veterans,” Chairman of the Commission on Aging Chuck Green said, quickly mentioning that he had nothing to do with the nominating process. “She started a food assistance program for formerly homeless veterans.”

The Commission on Aging began accepting nominations for the award last year and set a deadline of Thursday, Feb. 23, 2020, to nominate a senior in the area for the award. According to Green, the commission originally planned to hand out the award in March during the “State of the County.” 

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the commission put the award ceremony on hold until this month. Next week, Hallet will be formally presented as the first recipient of the Silver Award and will receive a plaque recognizing her work. 

“This is our opportunity to show the community the great work some seniors have done,” Green said. 

Green said the commission had eight nominations for the award and “had a hard time” deciding who would be the first recipient. The commission plans to make the award an annual occurrence. 

“We set this up because we have some many senior volunteers that have given time and talents,” Green said. “We felt that it was time to start recognizing that, especially those that have gone above and beyond.”

According to the nomination form provided by the Commission on Aging, Hallet is a “ball of energy and completely dedicated to her community and routinely gives back and never asks for anything in return.” 

Along with this, the form said Hallet uses her position on the VHA Board to speak out about the lack of affordable housing in the area and encourages fellow board members and management to stay engaged and help solve the housing crisis. 

Hallet has also used her position to help veterans in a variety of aspects. She works with FISH of Vancouver and has organized food bags going to “Freedom’s Path” and “Central Park Place” where over 200 formerly homeless veterans live. 

Hallet also worked and organized a day trip for 12 veteran residents of Central Park Place to go to the beach, prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Along with her work in the veteran community, Hallet works to assist her fellow senior citizens in housing and transportation needs as well as promoting good nutrition and recreational activities so seniors can live a healthy lifestyle. 

Hallet works for the City of Vancouver Parks and Recreation Department as a hostess at the Luepke Senior Center and volunteers to work with the nonprofit program Meals on Wheels. She also works directly with the Vancouver-based transportation agency C-TRAN to advocate for good transportation for seniors. 

While Hallet has done a lot for the community and received the award, Green said the Commission on Aging had a hard time choosing between the nominees. Along with giving Hallet the award, the commission plans to hand out eight “Honorable Mentions” to the other nominees at the ceremony. 

“We want to impress on our community that there are so many other volunteers, and we’re hoping people will nominate them again next year,” Green said. “We want to recognize everybody we can that helps our seniors. We are looking forward to it, and it will be a tough review again next year.” 

Honorable mentions include Arlys Borjesson, Donna Bashwiner, Jan Ratzman, Jeanne Snow, Jerry W. Keen, Luis and Joanita Munoz and Mollie Hands. 

The housing crisis among seniors in the community is a main talking point for the Commission on Aging. Following the presentation of the award, the commission plans to hold its regular meeting and host a discussion on the topic. 

“Our meetings were just restarted back in August and we have had a ‘COVID overlay’ on all of our topics,” Green explained. “This month we’re talking about housing challenges for vulnerable older adults during COVID. “

Green said finding and maintaining housing for the vulnerable population has been a challenge because the group is at high risk for severe symptoms of the virus. At the meeting, the commission hopes to talk about the challenges the virus imposes on keeping housing safe for the population as well as how the community can help in the time of crisis. 

“We’re also going to be talking about some of the challenges we face as we still have this group that is not quite up to speed on technology,” Green said. “In some of the areas they live, they don’t have the best internet connectivity.”

Green said the Nov. 18 meeting is scheduled to have three presenters to discuss housing in Clark County, including presentations from the Vancouver Housing Authority and the Council for the Homeless. Along with the meeting on Nov. 18, Green hinted that the commission plans to continue holding its monthly meetings for the foreseeable future. In December, the commission plans to talk about social isolation of seniors during COVID-19. Green said he was happy the commission is able to give housing to the vulnerable populations that need it; however, he was worried about the isolation complications of living alone during the pandemic. 

“We might have housing for them but then they can’t have visitors,” Green said. “We’re asking what we can do as an alternative.”

Local nonprofit Meals on Wheels started a volunteer program to help with social isolation back in September with its “Friendly Chat Program.” 

According to Director of Public Relations and Communication for Meals on Wheels People Julie Finley, volunteers in the chat program call up seniors once a week for a conversation as a way to promote connectivity with those who are feeling isolated during the crisis. Green said he and the rest of the commission are working with Meals on Wheels to make the program more widespread as well as possibly creating a “go-to information source” for programs like Meals on Wheels. 

Community members interested in joining in on the Commission on Aging’s monthly meeting can do so online at clark.wa.gov/community-planning/commission-aging-meetings and follow the steps to join the online WebEx meeting. Along with participating in the meeting, Green said the community should be on the lookout for possible nominations for next year's Silver Citizen Award. Nomination entries are encouraged to paint a picture of their nominee through descriptive explanation. Along with this, requirements for the award include: 

• Individuals must be 65 years of age or older and a resident of Clark County.

• Individuals must have enhanced the community through their life’s work, engagement of others, volunteerism and or selfless acts of service to the community for any age group.

• Major emphasis should be placed on contributions to the community made by the individual after reaching age 65. However, prior contributions may be considered.

• Service in any field of endeavor should be considered (e.g., education, radio, television, business, healthcare, art, music, journalism, faith-based, athletics, politics, volunteer service).

• A couple may receive the award jointly when both have been involved in service and various community endeavors.

More information on the award is available at clark.wa.gov/community-planning/silver-citizen-award.

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