COA approves dates for Project Advisory Council

THREE RIVERS — Members of the St. Joseph County Commission on Aging will have their voices heard on a bit of a different schedule next year.

During the Wednesday, Nov. 17 COA Advisory Board meeting, the board approved 2022 meeting dates for the COA’s Project Advisory Council to put them on a quarterly schedule instead of a monthly meeting schedule in Sturgis and quarterly meeting schedule in Three Rivers as it is currently.

Under the new schedule, members of the Rivers Enrichment Center in Three Rivers would meet every second Friday in March, June, September and December, while members of the Oaks Enrichment Center in Sturgis would meet every fourth Tuesday in those same months, with the possible exception of December, which could be rescheduled due to it falling on Dec. 27, a couple of days after Christmas.

The Project Advisory Council (PAC) is a meeting of COA members that is led by members with the purpose of offering input to COA administration about the services being provided by the agency. Any COA member can join in on the meetings, which need to be held at least once per year in person, with notes from the meetings shared with the Area Agency on Aging.

“This is a meeting for the members to meet and discuss whatever they might have – concerns, ideas, thoughts – on our programming,” Board Chair Deborah Davis explained. “It’s run by the members, but a staff member of ours can be there.”

At October’s COA meeting, the PAC meetings were discussed, with Executive Director Pam Riley asking the board for direction regarding management of the meetings. A motion was approved then to hold quarterly meetings at each location, while having a staff member available to answer questions if needed and providing members with a list of COA services to help members “stay on task” during the meeting.

“Some of the meetings have become very derailed in the topics that are being discussed,” Riley said. “If we give them an agenda, then we’re kind of still directing the meeting, so I came up with the descriptions sheet. … This page would be available so at each meeting, if they needed to refer to programs, they have definitions of what they are.”

Riley also noted a separate sheet that had “spotlights for discussion” that members could refer to as well.

When it came to scheduling, Davis suggested scheduling them so that they occur a week or so prior to the COA board’s meeting, which she said would give the agency time to get members on the agenda if there are any concerns that need to be addressed at the monthly meetings of the advisory board, as well as get information.

“I always disliked when we have a board meeting, but then some other committee meets a week later, and by the time you get to the next board meeting it’s like, ‘what did we meet about three weeks ago?’” Davis said. “If we had it closer in time, it gives the membership the ability to talk about it without staff involvement or pressure from any of us, and then if it can be resolved in that meeting or that week, we have a board meeting the following week and it can be brought up.”

The idea didn’t get too much traction, however, as it wasn’t discussed much further.

Board member John Gelvin relayed his experience attending an “informal” meeting with Oaks Enrichment Center members at the end of October, and noted there were no complaints about going to a quarterly schedule in Sturgis.

“I don’t think it’s going to be as big an issue you may think it is, but I also don’t think Dec. 27 is going to work,” Gelvin said.

Riley agreed that the meeting scheduled for Sturgis in December could be looked at to be changed. That was included in the motion presented by one of the board members to the board, which was approved unanimously. The COA would also take a look at the meetings after “several meetings” to see if it works for them.

In other business…

  • In her report to the board, Riley said the COA recently received nearly $6,000 in technology from the Area Agency on Aging for a “No Wrong Door” system grant at the end of AAA’s fiscal year. The COA received the technology in the previous week, which includes a computer/monitor, four iPads, four Kindles and “several accessories,” with the goal to “mitigate social isolation” and bring virtual access to people seeking supports and services.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or

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