Craig Russell

Craig Russell has been working for Blair Senior Services for nineteen years. He initially began his employment as a part-time Van Driver for the Transportation Department in Hollidaysburg. Craig added to his responsibilities with becoming a part-time Mechanic for Transportation as well. Over the years, his duties have increased and he is now the Operations Supervisor in the Transportation Department.

Craig’s responsibilities include helping with vehicle maintenance in the garage when needed, software implementation and computer technology, and even helps with answering the phones and scheduling transportation for consumers. Craig says, “I am responsible basically for anything that needs to be done on a day-to-day basis that helps to keep our daily operations running as smooth as possible with the exception of driving the vans.”

When asked what he liked best about working for Blair Senior Services, Craig stated, “My favorite part of working for this agency is knowing that we are providing such a valuable service. For many of our consumers this is their only means of getting out of the home. To doctors, medical treatments or just to socialize or go shopping. I am very proud to be part of all of it!”

Although Craig said there are many great memories, he shared one special memory he had with Blair Senior Services while being a driver, “When I was driving, at times we would have to take disabled or behavioral challenged students to school. They weren’t able to ride a regular school bus. I did this for two years with the kids and I really liked knowing that I was able to help them. By our Agency providing this service, they were able to go to school. This is just one example of what makes this job so rewarding and helps you to realize what an important service the Transportation Department at Blair Senior Services provides for the community.”

In addition, Craig encouraged others to consider either volunteering or possibly working for the Transportation Department saying, “Blair Senior Services is providing such an important service to many people in our community that this is their only means of transportation. It is a very rewarding experience as a person to know that every day you are making a difference in someone’s life.” If you are interested in volunteering or working for one of the many Blair Senior Services, Inc. programs, please call 814-946-1235.

Seasons Spring 2018

Blair Senior Services, Inc. Adds Two New Vans to Their Fleet

Blair Senior Services, Inc. has added two new vans to their transportation services. Both consumers and drivers are giving a thumbs up to the new Ford Transit vans that have several unique features.

Craig Russell of the Blair Senior Services, Inc. Transportation Department agrees sharing, “We’ve received good comments from our consumers about the new vans. The seating is comfortable and easy to access. The new vans are narrower than our other vans which makes it easier to navigate while driving especially through the smaller city streets. And due to their more efficient engines, we are getting twice the miles to a gallon of gas.”

The new vans also have a unique floor system that allows for reconfiguration of the seating. This will enable the vans to be used in several ways by adding to the number of seats or changing the layout of the seating. Typically, the van will be set up for six seats and one wheelchair. One of the vans is being used for the rural routes and the other is being used in Altoona.
Currently, there are 36 vans in the fleet which are all handicap accessible that offer door-to-door transportation to Blair County residents. Anyone of any age can ride the van. Having reliable transportation during the week can help to change consumers’ lives. It offers freedom and independence.

Some programs exist to help pay for transportation services for those under age 60. Funded trips for residents between the ages of 60-64 are limited to medical appointments and federal buildings, such as the Social Security office. Consumers age 65 or older may use the van for multiple purposes, such as transportation to medical appointments, stores or hairdressers. Every trip is based on mileage and is a very inexpensive way to get where you need to go. Trips must be scheduled 24 hours in advance. Contact Blair Senior Services’ Transportation Office at (814) 695-3500 to schedule a trip or to get rate information.

Blair Senior Services, Inc. Announces the Rex Fahr Award for Consumer Service

For years, Blair Senior Services, Inc. wanted to have an award to recognize their Transportation Department employees who are held in high esteem by their peers and demonstrate excellence in every aspect of the job.

According to Dennis Wisor, Transportation Program Manager of the Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s Transportation Department, “We had tried many times to launch a recognition awards program. I am very happy we now have the “Rex Fahr Award for Consumer Service” to recognize the employees who do such good work every day.”

For the first year, Dennis said they kept it simple and the only restriction was that nominees must work in the Transportation/Medical Assistance Transportation Program. Employees of the Transportation Department were encouraged to submit nominations for employees they felt were deserving of this honor based on their dedication to the mission of Blair Senior Services, Inc., quality of service, or any related factors they felt makes them an exceptional employee.

The award was named in memory of the late Rex Fahr, a past Transportation Department driver from June 2013 to January 2016, who was well loved and respected for his exceptional work and personality. “Rex was universally loved by all of his fellow drivers and consumers. He battled cancer for over two years while working and left a mark on the entire Transportation Department,” shared Dennis.

The first recipient of the “Rex Fahr Award for Consumer Service” is Chuck Alessi, Vehicle Operator. He was recognized and received his award at the HIPAA training held in December 2017. Dennis stated, “Chuck is a peer trainer and an overall great driver. He is simply what we strive to be every day.”

Chuck was surprised by the award, but very grateful. “I believe we should be courteous on and off the van, a good representative and ambassador of the company,” shared Chuck. “You appreciate the job and want the company to succeed and it is important to the consumers. For a lot of them, it is the only transportation service they have and they appreciate it.”

He has many fond memories of Rex and his consumers. Recently, Chuck encouraged one of his consumers, who was having difficulty remembering, to do the brainteaser puzzle that appears in every issue of the Seasons Magazine. The next time she rode his van, she told him how much she appreciated the driver that suggested she do the brainteaser puzzle and how it was helping. Her daughter even bought her three-word search books which is making a big difference. She did not remember it was Chuck who made the suggestion, but that is fine with him. He is more concerned with her well-being. “Many of my riders use our transportation service often and I get to know them.”

Rex and Chuck shared similar religious beliefs as Christians and often prayed together before they “took off each day.” Now Chuck is continuing this with the other drivers and keeping Rex’s tradition going. Chuck has been driving for Blair Senior Services, Inc. for five years. He served in the U.S. Navy, was a coal miner and retired from working at Berwind Railroad in Hollidaysburg. He majored in psychology in college.

Other nominees for the award included; Jim Fouse a driver for 8 years, Katie Brinkman a Transportation Program Assistant for 4 ½ years, and Rick Freet a driver for 3 years.
Frances Fahr, Rex’s wife, believes Rex would be happy to know his peers are being recognized. “I have the best job,” Rex would tell Frances every day when he came home from work. “As soon as he got home, he would tell me about the people he drove, always with a smile on his face”, shared Frances. “He would talk about them as he would a special friend or family member which is how he thought of them.”

When asking others to describe Rex, the words caring and compassionate were often repeated and Frances agreed. “There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for someone in need.”
Everywhere he went people knew him and he loved talking with them. He told me, “God really blessed me that He gave me this job.” Even as the disease progressed, Frances said it was the desire to care for others that kept him going.

Rex Fahr was a very special man in every way. After a very courageous battle with pancreatic cancer for three years, Rex passed in 2017. But his incredible and unselfish service and compassion for others will always be remembered.

Frances now rides the van and talks with other consumers on the van. When they learn that Rex was her husband they are quick to share their own personal memories of him. Even some who did not get to know Rex share how they have heard stories about his sincere concern and unselfish services for the van riders.
Congratulations to Chuck and all of the well-deserving nominees. Thank you to the hardworking and dedicated Blair Senior Services, Inc. Transportation Department Team for making a positive difference in the community.

Mary Ann Hofer

Mary Ann Hofer has been volunteering for the Foster Grandparent Program at Blair Senior Services for the last 17 years. Mary Ann volunteers 5 days a week from 8 a.m. until Noon.   Mary Ann heard about the Blair Senior Services’ program through word of mouth and decided to give it a try. 

Mary Ann’s volunteer site is at the Altoona Area High School volunteering in the School Age Parent Program. There, Mary Ann helps with skills for the students and nurturing of the infants and toddlers.  Mary Ann says, “I talk to the children and hug and kiss them. Lots of hugs I give and get in return.  I give enough love to fill any empty spots there may be. ”

When asked what she liked the most about volunteering for Blair Senior Services, Mary Ann stated “I absolutely love everyone with my whole heart. Everyone at Blair Senior Services, in the offices, the van drivers are all so very nice.  Then the people at the school, Mrs. Resko and all the teachers are so good to me.  The students call me Gram.  Who doesn’t need an extra Gram?  I just love so much what I do and I have lots of fun.  I look forward to each day.”  Mary Ann does get paid a stipend for volunteering but said it doesn’t compare to the amount of reward she gets from volunteering.

When asked if she had a special memory while volunteering for Blair Senior Services, Mary Ann said, “There are too many to mention and really every day something special happens.”

Mary Ann would encourage anyone to give the Foster Grandparent Program a try saying, “If you love kids, this is the program for you!”

If you or your group is interested in volunteering for this program or any of the programs offered, please call Blair Senior Services, Inc. at 814-946-1235. 

Angel Dandrea

Angel Dandrea has been working for Blair Senior Services, Inc. for approximately 12 years.  She initially began with the Agency as a college intern during the summer of 2002 in the Care Management Department.  Angel realized that Blair Senior Services was a place that she wanted to work someday.  Upon graduation, she applied for a job opening and was hired.  She currently supervises and works directly with the Senior Centers, Congregate Meal Program, and Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion Programs.

When asked what she liked best about working for Blair Senior Services, Angel stated, “What I like best is seeing the positive impact that our programs and services have on the older adults that we serve in Blair County.  Whether it’s through volunteerism, participating in programming at the Senior Centers, receiving a hot meal or transportation, there is something positive that everyone can be a part of.  I’m truly blessed to be a part of such an amazing team at Blair Senior Services.” 

Angel said she would definitely encourage people to volunteer stating, “Blair Senior Services has a number of volunteer opportunities available.  Our Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion Programs are currently in need of volunteers, specifically Foster Grandparents.  The Foster Grandparents volunteer 15-40 hours per week in elementary schools, Head Start programs and daycares throughout Blair County.  If you know of anyone who might be interested, let us know.  We would be happy to discuss the opportunity with them!”

If you are interested in volunteering for one of the many programs at Blair Senior Services, Inc.,  please call 814-946-1235. 

Bernice Newberry

Bernice Newberry has been working for Blair Senior Services for 30 years.  She initially began her employment in Care Management, which she still does, but she also works in Protective Services. 

Bernice’s responsibilities include assessing the needs appropriately for consumers so they are able to stay in their homes. Bernice states, “In Protective Services, I help people who may be at risk for abuse, neglect, or abandonment, those type of scenarios.  Some of the cases are simply self neglect.  Others are more complicated.  It is very exciting because you never know what you may run into and every situation is different.”

When asked what Bernice liked best about working for Blair Senior Services, she stated, “All my life I wanted to be a Social Worker.  I enjoy the variety of people I meet. These people come to Blair Senior Services, Inc. because they don’t know what to do or where to turn for answers or assistance.  Our Agency has ways to help so many people in so many different situations.  For me, I believe it is the best feeling knowing that I was able to help someone achieve their ultimate goal of being able to stay in their home.” 

Bernice said that she would encourage others to volunteer or work for Blair Senior Services, Inc. saying, “Blair Senior Services is always in need of volunteers and is a great place to work.  It takes a special type of person to work for us. It is an Agency where everyone truly wants to help the elderly and to make their lives a little better with one of our many programs.  There is no better place to work and know that you made someone’s life a little bit better by helping them out of a situation or to stay in their home!”  If you are interested in volunteering for one of Blair Senior Services, Inc. programs, please call 814-946-1235.

Rita Griffith

Rita Griffith has been a Senior Companion at Blair Senior Services, Inc. for 4 days a week for the last 20 years.  Rita said that her husband had been a Senior Companion and after he passed away she decided she wanted to volunteer to do the same with Blair Senior Services.

Currently, Rita’s volunteer site is at the ALSM Senior Daily Living Center where she assists a consumer with some routine daily activities and provides peer support.  In talking with Rita, there is no doubt of her genuine care and concern for not only the senior she is companion to, but everyone at the Center, both consumers and volunteers.

When asked what she liked the most about volunteering for Blair Senior Services, Rita stated “I really just love helping the elderly people.  All of these people are my friends. I try to treat everyone as how I would want to be treated.  You really get as much as you give! I truly look forward to every day I get to spend volunteering.  As of this September 15th, I have been doing this for 4 days a week for 20 years.  Only every once in a great while I might have to take a day off, but I try not to!  I love it as much now as when I started.”

Rita said that she would encourage anyone to give the Senior Companion Program a try saying, “Once you try it you will see that it is as good for you as it is the person you are giving companionship to.”

If you or your group is interested in volunteering for this program or any of the programs offered, please call Blair Senior Services, Inc. at 814-946-1235.

Is It Time To Date Again?

Re-engaging in dating, or dating for the first time as we get older can be just as challenging as when we were much younger. While the choices of where we’ll go and what we might do are different, the anxious feelings we may have are very familiar. But as we found in our research and interviews with five charming couples at Blair Seniors Services, Inc.’s Senior Centers in Altoona and East Freedom, that is not holding many seniors back, and love is definitely in the air!
Despite growing interest, just 14% of eligible singles, aged 57-85, are currently in a dating relationship. However, a record number of older adults are open to dating, and the number will only rise as more Baby Boomers reach retirement age. After all, one third of all Boomers are currently unmarried. And as quality of life continues to improve for older adults, the benefits that can come from dating—fun, companionship, and emotional support—seem more attainable, while the demands—time, energy, and money—feel more manageable. While the very prospect of dating might have once felt absurd to many older adults, more and more seniors are giving the idea a serious second look. Are you?
Earlier in life, most men and women report that they date primarily to find a spouse and start a family. For young daters, the intrinsic benefits of dating like social connection, fun, companionship, and emotional support are often secondary. To be sure, some seniors who date are also doing so to find a spouse. But many older adults feel that new long term commitments, like marriage, aren’t necessarily a priority later in life and very few seniors are looking to start new families.
Older adults who are in dating relationships or are looking to date often report that their main interest in dating is to have fun and find companionship, not necessarily to marry. Of course, many seniors do date with marriage in mind, but if you’re interested in dating, consider the benefits that may extend beyond the prospect of marriage!

Donna Gorman and Bob Lafferty originally met at the Central Blair Senior Center in Altoona. Bob was working his volunteer shift when Donna, who normally went to the Claysburg Center, arrived and immediately caught his eye. “She was pretty attractive,” Bob shared. Donna said she didn’t noticed him right away, but it wasn’t long before they went to dinner on their first date. She had been out with friends for lunch earlier that day and recalls it was ironic that she ate fish. When Bob took Donna to dinner the special was, you guessed it, fish. “I got the fish and she got a salad. People must have thought I was cheap,” laughed Bob.
That was the summer of 2015. Now you can find Donna and Bob shopping, going to dinner, traveling to Rocky Gap, and frequently at the Southern Blair Senior Center in East Freedom for lunch, playing bingo and dancing. Both encourage others their ages to start dating again and believe it is good to be with someone. Donna commented that her daughter doesn’t need to worry as much about her and she likes that he’s great at helping fix things around her home, inside and outside. Bob said, “If I knew we had ten more years I’d ask her to marry me. I already bought her two rings, one with a diamond.” Donna’s reply, “They didn’t count, what does count is that I know he loves me.”

When seniors date, they find a companion that can accompany them to social engagements and activities at which a partner is often traditionally expected or even required, such as weddings and dances. They also gain the frequent company of someone who shares similar interests, which can enrich recreational experiences and present new opportunities for seniors to do the things that they most enjoy.
Sure, platonic friendships can accomplish some of those goals, but most adults agree that the company of a companion is different and fulfilling, and seniors with just platonic relationships might miss out on that kind of connection. Meanwhile, the emotional intimacy of a romantic relationship exceeds and differs from the emotional closeness that friends develop. Many seniors also draw emotional intimacy from their adult children, but most seniors say that they would prefer to also have close relationships, trust, and warmth with their peers.

For Mary Ann Sollenberger, she said it was love at first sight when she met Ken Miller. They have been dating for two years. “We met here at the Center and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him,” said Mary Ann. “He was and still is a handsome man.” Ken felt the same way. “I liked her right away. We sit beside each other in the van to come to the Center and hold hands,” shared Ken. “We kissed on the first date!”
For this couple, the Southern Blair Senior Center in East Freedom is the hub for their dating. They enjoy the entertainment, dances, playing games, and talking with their many friends they’ve made.

Older adults in a dating relationship often indicate higher spirits than their single friends. When you’re in a relationship, you have someone who you want to dress up for and spend time with, someone to make plans with, someone who you think about warmly when they’re not around, and someone who provides support and comfort when they are there. All of this can help older adults feel happier and more fulfilled, which can even buoy their physical, psychological, and spiritual health.

Ken Lingenfelter agrees, although he had to work when it came to convincing Alice Parker. Ken liked to hand out his phone number to all the ladies at their lunch table at the Southern Blair Senior Center in East Freedom. Alice resisted and even said she ran from him. “I wasn’t looking for a date and when he offered me his phone number, I declined,” shared Alice.
It’s now been three years since their first date and they continue to enjoy coming to the Senior Center. “I like the female companionship, having lunch, using the treadmill, and taking part in cooking classes especially the ones on healthy eating here,” said Alice. Ken said he likes the socializing and the attention he gets wearing a different Superman shirt every day of the month. “She likes to eat fruits and vegetables. I like anything that doesn’t get away before I eat it.”
Their advice on dating once again, “There are no rules on age and dating. Go for it, you only live once!” As for the future, Ken says he bought Alice a pre-pre-pre-engagement ring and a pre-pre-engagement ring. The next one might be it!

Overall, there are plenty of advantages to dating: you’ll meet new people, form new friendships, open yourself up to new experiences, and you’ll probably end up happier and healthier.
These days, there are more opportunities than ever before for seniors to date. Of course, there’s the old fashioned way: talk to people! Seniors who are open to dating tend to be more socially connected, which means they generally participate in lots of social events where you can find them, approach them, and strike up a conversation. And your chances of finding another single person are pretty good, since more than half of people age 65 and older aren’t married.
One of the best ways to find a potential person to date face-to-face is to seek out opportunities to connect with your peers by attending plenty of social events in your area that are geared towards older adults. Every issue of Seasons Magazine has a whole season’s worth of great events hosted by Blair Senior Services, Inc. (See pages 4 through 7.) Keep in mind that one of the advantages of dating as an older adult is finding a companion who shares your interests, so be sure to choose the events that you actually enjoy and attend them.

Dolores (Dee) Watcher and Dave Port have been dating for eight years after meeting at the Central Blair Senior Center in Altoona. “We met in the old lunch room where they put numbers on the tables and called you up to get your lunch,” said Dave. “My table was called before her table and I convinced her to move to my table. It worked”. Dee said she was reluctant at first due to her late husband telling her not to trust men. She would not give Dave her correct home address, but he kept trying. “He asked me if I liked chicken. I didn’t know him very well and met him at the Center before going to the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Ebensburg. We’ve been together ever since,” said Dee.

Both their families support their dating and like knowing they have each other even though her daughter still checks on her every day. Dee goes to the Center often with her friends for the exercise and ceramic classes. Dave likes to enjoy the entertainment and listen to the music. “The Center is a good place to get to know others. It’s never too late to fall in love if you meet the right person,” said Dee.
But for many, the idea of approaching someone out of the blue, striking up a conversation, and broaching the subject of romance is completely nerve-wracking. Most people found that stuff scary during their teens and twenties, and many find the prospect even more daunting later in life, when dating is not as common. After all, rejection is always a possibility, especially since many single seniors choose not to date, and that can be an embarrassing and hurtful prospect.

For Laurel Meres and Ron Reeseman, it was family members who encouraged them to become more active. That was August of 2016 and just one year later they got married!
“I came for lunch at the Central Blair Senior Center in Altoona and sat with my brother’s lunch group,” said Ron. “He told me I needed to get out and get a life!” For Laurel, it was her daughter who encouraged her to start being more social. “I started going for lunch and after a while Ron asked me to join their lunch group. One year later, we were married,” shared Laurel. “I asked God for a Christian man with a great sense of humor, who would love and adore me. I got all that and more.”
Ron shared it was her personality and how she likes to give to others that attracted him. Their first date was at an Altoona Curve Baseball game with tickets they won from Blair Senior Services, Inc. Not long after that, Ron proposed, they were married and went to another Altoona Curve game for their honeymoon. And for wedding gifts, they bought each other season tickets for the next year!
Both Laurel and Ron believe older adults do not need to be alone. They shared that if you hold back from engaging in a new relationship you may miss out on the companionship and joy that help you feel full and complete. “We laugh all day. Learning to let someone help you, cuddle and smile at you, there’s something special in that.”

While seniors can find fun, companionship, and emotional satisfaction by dating, it is not for everyone. Many seniors decide that dating is not for them, and they still manage to form completely fulfilling relationships through their friends, adult children, grandchildren, pastors, and others. There are many legitimate reasons why seniors choose not to date.
Some older adults, especially women, report uncertainty about dating because they fear that some seniors are in the dating pool primarily because they are looking for a caretaker, not a romantic companion. Many older adults value their independence, and they don’t want to risk losing it, particularly when a new marriage forces them to alter their lifestyle or become responsible for their spouse. While marriage is a serious commitment that involves responsibilities, including caring for an ailing spouse, seniors should not start dating because they are looking to marry quickly and get a new caretaker. And seniors should not be pressured to date or continue dating out of any feeling of social or personal obligation.
Regardless of whether you choose to date or not, your golden years are about enjoying life by doing the things that interest and energize you and spending time with the people you care about. For most seniors, the point of dating is to enhance this experience by seeking out a companion and a confidante with whom to share life’s great experiences. During all our interviews at the Senior Centers, the one thing that was most apparent and repeated by all the couples was the importance of having a good sense of humor for forming and keeping a relationship.
Clearly the large number of opportunities for socializing, great variety of activities and entertainment in a safe environment make the Blair Senior Services, Inc.’s Senior Centers a good choice for older adults considering getting back into the dating game!