By Ben Olson
Ellen Weissman passes an important milestone Sunday, Sept. 15: five years of working as the executive director for Sandpoint Area Seniors, Inc.
The job, which Weissman throws herself into wholeheartedly, came as a result of “timing.”
“Timing is everything,” Weissman said. “I was working another job and one of the [SASi] board members that I knew from the Teen Center board I was on 10 years ago said, ‘We just hired somebody, but you would’ve been perfect for the job.’”
Weissman asked her friend to think of her if the job came open again and, eight weeks later, it had. She jumped in.
With a staff of 11 people and numerous volunteers, Weissman’s position as executive director means serving Sandpoint’s senior population in a number of different ways.
“It’s overseeing the whole operation,” Weissman said. “The Senior Center, the meals program, both home-delivered and in-house, the DayBreak Center. It’s working with the board for fundraising and writing grants, working with community organizations and agencies that help seniors. Really, it’s everything from cleaning toilets to bigger projects, like getting the parking lot redone a couple years back.”
Weissman said she’s thankful for many local agencies she works with regularly in her goal to serve Sandpoint’s elderly population.
“We work with Sandpoint Community Resource Center a lot,” she said. “We work with the Food Bank a lot too. They have a program for housing for veterans which, two summers ago, I was able to help a fellow get housing. … That is increasing. The housing issue, as most everybody knows in town, is getting super tight.”
SASi currently serves about 60 seniors across Bonner County for their home-delivered meal program and another couple hundred regularly attend their in-house meals. Lunch is served Monday through Thursday at 11:30 a.m. and breakfast is served Fridays at 8:30 a.m. If you’re over 60 years old, SASi asks for a suggested donation of $4 for meals, “but we never turn anyone away,” Weissman said.
Aside from meals, SASi’s regular programs like AARP’s free tax advice, social gatherings, art classes and adult respite care at the DayBreak Center round out a complete package to give seniors in the area the tools they need to live happy, healthy lives in their declining years.
“Isolation is huge,” Weissman said. “It can lead to depression, which can lead to suicide. I call this an ‘isolation-buster,’ because as soon as you make a connection with another human being, you’re hooked. You’re not alone.”
Weissman said a special program coming up is a visit from the Idaho Commision on Aging, which plans and oversees services in Idaho designed to keep seniors living independently. ICOA will be at the Sandpoint Senior Center Tuesday, Sept. 24 from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. with a lunch period from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Weissman asks those who plan to attend to RSVP by calling 208-263-6860.
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