All posts by Paula Culbertson

AmeriCorps Seniors find ways to help communities despite restrictions

Unable to serve in area classrooms during the pandemic, MEOC AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers have found other ways to assist their communities. The volunteers serve as foster grandparents to at-risk children in area Head Start and elementary schools, working one-on-one to mentor and tutor students. When pandemic restrictions began to emerge and schools shifted to virtual learning, the seniors found themselves isolated at home with lots of time on their hands. MEOC AmeriCorps Seniors Director Brandi Barnette began seeking partnerships and opportunities to keep volunteers engaged long distance.

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Fuel assistance applications being accepted; donations still needed

Mountain Empire Older Citizens is now accepting applications for heating assistance through its Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly. The program helps pay winter heating expenses for those who are at least age 60 in Lee, Wise and Scott counties and the City of Norton and whose income is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level. The fund is used for purchase and delivery of wood, coal, propane, heating oil and to pay electric bills. The program runs from November 1 to March 31. To apply, call MEOC at 276-523-4202.

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Snodgrass receives outstanding older worker award

For more than four decades, Irma Snodgrass has been the face of Mountain Empire Older Citizens in Scott County. As an MEOC employee since 1979, the Weber City resident has traveled countless miles in the community connecting older residents to services that help them remain safe and secure in their homes. With 41 years of service to MEOC, Snodgrass has the honor of having the most years of employment among all staff members. Her devotion to the agency and its clients are among many assets that helped earn Snodgrass the 2020 Mae French Outstanding Older Worker Award.

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Need help understanding your Medicare options?

Medicare open enrollment is underway and runs through December 7. Free individual insurance counseling for people with Medicare is available through MEOC’s Virginia Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program (VICAP). A trained VICAP counselor can provide information to help you better understand plans and compare benefits. If you need assistance, please contact Jennifer Spangler at (276) 523-4202.

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Increase in fuel fund requests expected

At 92, Christina Harris of Gate City can’t do quite as much as she once did. But she’s still determined to be as active as possible. While she can no longer complete heavy-duty housework or tend her yard, chores she once enjoyed, Harris remains motivated and driven. “I don’t give up. I try to put my mind to it and do it, even if I don’t want to,” said Harris, as she rested in a chair in the physical therapy space at Mountain Empire Older Citizens’ Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly in Big Stone Gap.

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Foster grandparents take part in Day of Service

With limited access to public schools during the pandemic, MEOC’s AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers observed the September 11 Day of Service differently than in past years but still found a way to give back to the community. AmeriCorps Seniors (formerly the Foster Grandparent Program) participants filled 50 gift bags with items to donate to the agency’s Public Guardianship Program. The Public Guardianship Program serves indigent adults who have been determined by the court system to need a guardian or conservator.

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Walkathon a favorite event for Sal’s Pals

Each year after completing the Mountain Empire Older Citizens Walkathon, the women who make up Sal’s Pals have a custom. After putting in their steps at the walk, held at Bullitt Park in Big Stone Gap, the ladies make a trip to the community Dairy Queen for ice cream as a celebration of sorts. This year, that tradition won’t happen exactly as in the past since the Walkathon is virtual. However, that isn’t stopping Sal’s Pals from fulfilling their longtime commitment to raising money for the Emergency Fuel Fund for the Elderly.

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MEOC foster grandparent honored by Kids Central

MEOC foster grandparent Nelda ‘Moe’ Dennison (center) is this year’s recipient of Kids Central Inc.’s Volunteer of the Year Award. Presenting the award at Kids Central’s August board meeting is chairman Will Sturgill (left) and executive director Darrell Edwards.

Nelda “Moe” Dennison first heard about Mountain Empire Older Citizens’ Foster Grandparent Program when she was 57 years old. She was a regular volunteer on field trips and other activities with her granddaughter’s class at Appalachia Elementary School. “A lady there knew about the program and encouraged me to check on it,” recalled Dennison. She was drawn to the idea of volunteering in a classroom where she would help care for and mentor young children.

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Fuel fund helps local neighbors, friends

Seventy-six-year-old Paul “Cowboy” Young loves to show people around his workshop in the backyard of his Dryden home in the northeastern part of Lee County. “Now, come on in here … let me show you this,” Young beckons. He wears a broad grin underneath his long gray beard as he begins a tour of the workspace he built himself. He’s dressed in black with jeans, a sleeveless western button-up shirt and cowboy boots. A straw cowboy hat rests atop his head, and his light brown hair reaches his shoulders.

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