NEKCOA meeting

Angela Smith-Dieng (center) the State Unit on Aging Director for the Department of Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) was the guest speaker for the NEK Council on Aging’s Annual Meeting. Joining Angela is Board President, Kathy Hemmens (left) and NEKCOA Executive Director, Meg Burmeister.

The NEK Council on Aging held its Annual Meeting on Nov. 14 at the East Side Restaurant in Newport. Over 80 people were in attendance including guest speaker Angela Smith-Dieng, the State Unit on Aging Director for the Department of Aging and Independent Living (DAIL).

The meeting began with a welcome from the Council’s Executive Director, Meg Burmeister and an address from Board President, Kathy Hemmens. A new slate of Board of Directors officers were nominated and approved. The officers are Anne Steinbeck, President; John Fitch, Vice President; Margaret Healey, Treasurer; and Kathy Hemmens, Secretary. Several new Directors were nominated and approved including: Karen Ackermann of Lyndonville; Evan Hammond of Lunenburg; Nancy Hogue of Danville; Kris Lance of East Hardwick; Lisa McCrae of St. Johnsbury; and Katesel Strimbeck of Newport. Hemmens presented a gift in appreciation to Mary Jean Thielen who is leaving the Board of Directors after six years of service.

Guest speaker Angela Smith-Dieng began her presentation with a video on “Let’s End Ageism” by Ashton Applewhite who urges the public to mobilize against ageism--the last socially acceptable prejudice. "Aging is not a problem to be fixed or a disease to be cured," says Applewhite. "It is a natural, powerful, lifelong process that unites us all." Smith-Dieng then described the need to reframe the conversation about aging and how “aging is living” and discussed several examples on how to change the conversation. She mentioned the goal for Vermont to become the sixth “Age Friendly State” in the nation and how Newport is the only AARP Age Friendly Community in the state of Vermont.

“Angela is committed to changing communication strategies on how we discuss and describe aging,” said Burmeister. “She understands how we all should celebrate the ability of elder Vermonters to adapt and grow as they journey through their lives. Her presentations are always informative and motivating--we were grateful to welcome her to our meeting.”

During the Annual Meeting, the Council honors a volunteer with the annual Humanitarian Hero award to celebrate and recognize their dedication and service to the Council and its mission and the impact this person has had in their community to benefit older Vermonters. This year, the Council presented Don Beer, Jr. and Mike Labounty with the Humanitarian Hero award for their successful fundraising campaign in support of Meals on Wheels. Together, with the help of family and friends throughout the NEK, Beer and Labounty raised over $20,000 in support of the St. Johnsbury and Lyndonville community meal sites.

Representatives from each department within the Council had the opportunity to describe the programs and services provided by the Council. These included caregiving, case management, nutrition and wellness, volunteering, health insurance, information and referral, and options counseling.

The meeting concluded with staff recognition for years of service. Mary Jane Miller was presented with her five-year service award.