Angels In Our Midst

Angels In Our Midst

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Angels In Our Midst (John Clark)

Updated: Tuesday, March 19 2013, 11:01 AM CDT
The director of a local charitable organization picked up the mantle for their clients decades ago and he's never put it down.

Through the years, his efforts on behalf of seniors have earned him praise from peers and government officials across the state.

While others celebrate his milestones, he's focused on the "miles" he still wants to cover.

Voice of John Clark, Council On Aging ; "In social service work, you've got to have a commitment to what you're doing."

John Clark has had that commitment for 35 years. As executive director of the Council on Aging of West Florida, he has led his staff and volunteers on a mission to serve the community's elders.

John Clark, Council On Aging Executive Director; We've helped them remain at home. We've helped them remain healthy. We've helped them to stay out of institutions. And we've also saved the state a lot of money by what we do.

Jean Norman, United Way Escambia County; John is there as one who is a servant leader. He serves where it is needed. He serves in a very quiet but very persistent and effective way.

Persistently he has sought funding for programs to keep seniors as active and independent as possible for as long as possible. One of the first was meals on wheels in 1975.

Easter Cossey, Receives Meals on Wheels; I'm scared to get over the stove on account of I fell. And I don't want to get over the stove and get burned.

There are congregate meal sites; seniors helping seniors through the companion program; seniors finding purpose as foster grandparents.

Barbara Jean Samuel, Foster Grandparent; "Getting up in the morning having somewhere to go, knowing I'm coming to see the little babies."

"Knowing I'm coming to see the little babies.I feel good doing that. I just feel I'd wither away to nothing if I wasn't doing anything."

The Council On Aging had one of the first licensed Adult Day Health Care programs in the state. Caregivers have a secure place to leave loved ones during the day.

John promotes collaborations with other social service agencies. Dollars are too tight for competition.

Jean; "You know, a rising tide floats all boats. And what improves health and human services in one area is going to, in some way, is going to impact seniors."

He appreciates the tough funding choices lawmakers have to make. John's approach is the voice of reason.

John; "It's much better to pay five or six thousand dollars a year to help people stay in their homes versus paying that every month to have them stay in a nursing home."

While a lot has been accomplished in 35 years, some things have not changed. Funding was an issue in 1974 and it still is today.

John; "More than 20,000 people on a waiting list for elder programs in the entire state of Florida; locally, there's a couple thousand."

They're the ones who will keep him going for well, who knows how long.

John; "35 years is a long time, just turned 65. But, you know, I'm still healthy, thank God."
Angels In Our Midst (John Clark)

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Washington Times