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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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204 Broad Street
Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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Aging agency works to help older adults
Director relieved that proposed budget cuts were not approved
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Teresa C. Fontaine, executive director of the Southern Area Agency on Aging, is seen outside the agency’s office on Cleveland Avenue in Martinsville. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

By ERIC STEINKOPFF - Bulletin Staff Writer

A staff of 18 people in Martinsville is trying to meet as many needs of older people throughout southern Virginia as possible.

The mission of the Southern Area Agency on Aging (SAAA) is to provide services that promote independence and quality of life for older adults. It feeds, transports, counsels, visits and provides other types of assistance, mostly to people 60 years of age and older.

The agency serves Henry, Patrick, Franklin and Pittsylvania counties, as well as Martinsville and Danville. It is one of 25 area agencies on aging statewide.

“We’re all about providing, planning and coordinating a network of support services to allow older individuals to live in their homes as long as possible,” said agency Executive Director Teresa C. Fontaine.

Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed a budget amendment that would have cost the SAAA about $75,000. To Fontaine’s relief, the amendment failed.

“All agencies that receive state funding have received cuts in recent years,” Fontaine mentioned. However, “$75,000 in one fell swoop would have been difficult” to absorb.

For its fiscal year that began Oct. 1, the SAAA is receiving a total of $3,622,994 in federal, state and local funds. The state’s contribution amounts to $808,190, information provided by Fontaine shows.

A $75,000 cut would have equated to about 9.3 percent of the agency’s state funds and about 2.1 percent of its total government funding.

A private, not-for-profit organization, the SAAA also accepts donations and seeks grant opportunities. It was founded in 1976 as Piedmont Seniors and Virginia. The agency provides services mandated under the federal Older Americans Act of 1965.

Some of the services established by the act are designed to keep healthy older adults strong and active. Those include transportation services, meals at senior lunch sites and recreation activities.

Other services — such as home-delivered meals, housekeeping assistance and help with personal care — are designed to help the frail and disabled.

A popular program is Meals on Wheels, which provides a midday meal to many shut-ins Mondays through Fridays. The SAAA also arranges for meals to be provided to as many as 15 congregate sites — some of which are in extremely rural areas — where active seniors gather during the day for socialization and other activities.

“While the senior is there for that meal,” exercise, education and other programs also are featured at congregate sites, Fontaine said.

The SAAA can provide transportation to meal sites, medical and therapy appointments and, sometimes, it can take people shopping for necessities.

But the agency is finding it hard to fund services for everyone. For example, Fontaine said, “we probably have a waiting list of about 140 people for Meals on Wheels. We’re waiting because of funding limitations.”

The SAAA also has an advocacy program, an insurance counseling program and, for those ages 55 and older, an employment program.

It will help some seniors clean their homes, get a bath or give primary care family members a much-needed break. Low-income seniors who do not have family nearby to help them receive priority on waiting lists.

Volunteers always are needed. For more information, call Gloria Roberts, program coordinator, at 632-6442 or toll-free at 800-468-4571.

More information about the SAAA’s services and how to make donations is available at the agency’s office at 204 Cleveland Avenue and on its website,


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