White County Aging Program creates opportunity for Searcy native

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published January 24, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated January 23, 2013 at 9:30 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: Curt Youngblood

Julie Williams, right, talks with Marie Cooper during lunch at the John E. Lightle Senior Center in Searcy. Williams works for the White County Aging Program and spends time getting to know the center’s clients.

Julie Williams, who became involved with the White County Aging Program through her father, Bill Wood, has become part of something that is close to her heart.

Williams’ dad died in January 2012 after having a heart attack, followed by kidney failure that required him to have dialysis.

Williams, who is now billing coordinator and spokesman for the program, said that as her dad’s health deteriorated, it became more and more difficult to transport him for dialysis three times a week.

“It got to be where he was so weak after dialysis that we really needed somebody to do transport,” Williams said.

As she compared prices of medical transportation around Searcy, Williams realized the financial toll this would eventually take on her family, but then she found the White County Aging Program.

When Williams got in touch with the program, she realized the program had the kind of van her father needed to be taken for dialysis without having to get out of his wheelchair.

“There were so many needs that we had,” Williams said. “It was just really a struggle until we found this program.”

What is so special about the White County Aging Program is that the only means of payment for the program’s transport services is a donation — however much a person can pay at the time.

“I just couldn’t believe that it was just a donation,” Williams said. “I was so appreciative that I wanted to give back.”

Williams said she would donate what she could and would come to where the program is centered, in Searcy. During the holiday season, Williams said, she started helping the center decorate for different events the program offers.

“When I started coming [to the White County Aging Program] and decorating, I just always felt really good about it,” Williams said. “It was just fun, and I loved all of the people working here, and it just felt like I was doing something important.”

After Williams’ dad died, she said she wanted to stay in touch with the people who worked with the aging program even though she no longer had a “specific” reason to go to the center.

She asked if the center needed help decorating for Christmas again. Marcia Pressler, director of the White County Aging Program, said that at the same time Williams contacted her, there was an employment opportunity that opened up that Williams would be ideal for.

“She’s really good with our seniors,” Pressler said. “She really understands their needs and their families’ needs.”

One thing that sets the White County Aging Program apart from other senior-citizen programs in the area is not only the fact that it’s a nonprofit organization, but the people employed by the program go above and beyond to fulfill their jobs at the center.

“We have some excellent employees that just [work] because they care,” Pressler said. “It says a lot about our program because they’re not just here for a paycheck.”

Williams said that before her dad’s illness and death, she hadn’t thought about helping with the elderly.

“I got to know this program through my dad, and I was just so immensely appreciative because we had him using this program,” Williams said. “I don’t know how to explain how hard it would have been without it.”

Although Williams’ employment and involvement with the White County Aging Program came about through the loss of her dad, she said she is grateful for everything the program did for her and her family during their tough time.

“I’m floored by all of the stuff [the center] does,” Williams said.

The program offers daily activities for seniors in the community to participate in, such as bingo and fitness classes throughout the week.

Williams said the program functions on donations alone.

“I would never want something to happen to where they just had to close down because they couldn’t afford it,” Williams said.

“The goal is to have this atmosphere to make [clients] happy and involved so they will live longer. The concern is just having enough donations. It’s really hard to ask people to donate because it’s tough for everybody.”

Williams said she wants to spread the word about the program to the community so awareness is raised, and any person or business wanting to donate to the White County Aging Program can do so.

The White County Aging Program is at 2200 E. Moore St. in Searcy, and its representatives can be reached at (501) 268-2587.

Staff Writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online News Editor Lisa Burnett can be reached at lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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