County’s senior initiatives succeeding

Shelby County’s senior initiatives, designed to serve senior citizens through a partnership with county libraries, have continually attracted more participants, according to community services personnel.

In 2008, 59 senior programs throughout the county attracted 1,410 participants, according to county Community Services Coordinator Shelli Thomason.

Last year, the number of senior programs increased to 79, and the number of participants more than doubled, at 3,416. This year has seen 77 senior programs so far, with 1,294 participants.

Thomason said her department expects to see 3,800 participants total in 2010.

Community Services Manager Reggie Holloway said the County Commission’s support has propelled Shelby County libraries to be able to provide services for seniors.

“It’s been a great partnership between the Commission and county libraries,” Holloway said during a presentation at the May 10 Shelby County Commission work session.

Holloway and Thomason spoke about the impact senior programs, such as computer courses, job training classes, volunteer opportunities and social activities, are having in the community.

Thomason quoted Bernice Fortenberry, a volunteer who works to fill book requests from the Shelby County Jail, as saying, “God tells us to treat others as we want to be treated. This volunteer opportunity allows me the chance to fulfill this.”

Plans are in place to expand the senior programs, including extending computer classes on using the Internet, social networking and using PowerPoint to Westover and Calera.

The community services department also plans new initiatives for the future, including Senior Read, which would be an offshoot of the Big Read program; speakers from health agencies such as UAB and Shelby Baptist; historical programs with local students; and partnerships with organizations such as the Shelby County Arts Council and the Alabama Humanities Foundation.

Holloway said there’s more to do, but things are on the right track.

“With this library initiative that’s been going on, I think things are moving in the right direction,” he said.