by Anne Weiss – Executive Director 1974-1986
First, there was the need. Except for a few county-funded chore-workers, support services for the 16,000 elderly in Humboldt County did not exist in 1972. Of all the wonderful helps now associated with Humboldt Senior Resource Center (HSRC), not one existed then. Yet, it took only ten years for meals, home care, information and much more, as described in this Silver Anniversary Album, to be taken for granted. This record of essential service provision continues today under the leadership of current dedicated staff and board members with vision. Theirs is a proud heritage.
In 1974 the vision was supplied by the initial members of the Humboldt Senior Citizens Council. Continuing leadership was provided by (among others) John Bowersox, Don Quinn and Norma Kinshella of Eureka; Bill Hale of Fortuna; and Sam Jones of Weitchpec, a tireless advocate for the Karok and Yurok people in his community. Their vision statement had two principal commitments:"...to promote the health and welfare of senior citizens throughout Humboldt County..." and" ...to assist communities and (others) in their efforts to promote the general well-being of senior citizens."
The Council itself was formed with the help of the Center for Community Development at Humboldt State University. The Center provided technical assistance and grant writing services which led to the incorporation of the Council as a nonprofit organization and funding of the infant Humboldt Senior Resource Center. (John Woolley, now Third District Supervisor, and Patty Berg, recently retired Executive Director of the Area Agency on Aging, were key contributors way back then.)
Luck played a part. There was a window of opportunity throughout the 1970's for community-based organizations such as HSRC. Federal funds were given to the states which, in turn, put them out to bid for projects which brought direct services to low income groups. HSRC's initial staff of two (Anne Weiss and Phyllis Bosch) was charged with helping elders get the services they needed. Since there were virtually no services in place, this meant writing many more grants and forming cooperative relationships with other service providers whenever possible.
It was a heady and busy time. The California Department of Aging, the principal funding source, became very pleased with the performance standard set by HSRC. Our track record for grants funded was the envy of many. Innovation remained the norm under four Executive Directors: myself, Kermit Thobaben, Rozanne Miller and, now, Mary Beth Wolford. Thanks to a service management team composed of people like Beverly Jackson, Catherine Krause, Lorean LaPointe, Kermit Thobaben, Sandy Townsend, and many more throughout the years, HSRC won state and national awards for excellence. More important for Humboldt seniors, HSRC developed the most comprehensive service array anywhere in California.
None of this was done alone. HSRC developed and maintained productive working relations with county and city governments, other service providers, social service organizations and, of course, the seniors themselves. Outreach extended to sites throughout the county and into Del Norte. Home Health began as a low-cost service for care not covered by insurance and became a full service Home Health Agency.
Numerous programs, such as Redwoods Ombudsman and Senior Legal Services, initiated by HSRC, became independent agencies as soon as they were able. Communities contributed service sites and vital funding. Volunteers from Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) and others, provided and continue to provide essential staff support.
All of the above is by no means the end of the story. Need, vision and opportunity will continue to work together in the future as in the past. The next 25 years will surely see new and improved service development under boards of directors continuing in the spirit of those first council members. I am looking forward to seeing rest of the story as it unfolds.