DENHAM SPRINGS – Like most public agencies hit by August’s flood, the Livingston Parish Council on Aging has gradually worked its way back to providing services to the parish’s seniors.
But since December, a total of 12 comments have appeared in the Call & Comment section of the Livingston Parish News, 10 criticizing the COA operations and two defending it.
“I have no idea who did it,” said Ruth Goodwin, recreation and nutrition supervisor for the four parish sites.
She said no one has brought concerns to her.
“If somebody is unhappy and if they have a problem, they can come to us and we will do everything we can to solve it,” she said.
Most of the comments have called for an investigation of the COA but have not given any specific reasons. Some of them have said employees are unhappy with how the COA is run.
The comments supporting the agency have said it is working to provide services to parish seniors since the flooding.
Goodwin said she is worried about the effect the comments have had on the seniors who visit the COA.
“Some (seniors) have told me they were hurt by what was said,” Goodwin said.
The Call & Comment section does not require people to identify themselves when they submit something.
The comments might be from a former employee, Goodwin said, but she added, “They hurt nobody but the seniors.”
Goodwin has worked 37 years with the COA – “retired four times and called back four times.”
She points out what the COA offers parish residents, including breakfast, lunch, activities and crafts, information on senior services, and also an opportunity for seniors to socialize with each other.
The Denham Springs site is averaging 100 visitors and other sites are picking up again, she said.
The Denham Springs site recently hosted the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast.
“All vehicles are back on the road,” Goodwin said, bringing seniors to COA sites and continuing the Meals on Wheel delivery program.
There is no waiting list for Meals on Wheels, she added.
Since some are picked up at 7:30 a.m., breakfast is ready in the morning and drinks and juice are prepared for those who need to take medicines.
“You can look at their faces and tell if someone is sick or unhappy,” Goodwin said.
The staff then steps in, she says, and talks to the seniors to see how they can help.
“It’s lifesaving for them, they say,” Goodwin said.
The first time she read the comments in the Call & Comment section, Goodwin said, “I cried all weekend.”
“You live to see the smiles on their faces, especially this past year,” she said, referring to last fall’s flooding.
That flooding inundated the COA buildings in Denham Springs. The building that housed its offices is still a shell as a decision about its fate is awaited.
The larger building next door serves as the activity center, meal site and office space.
A stove was lost in the office building and the activity building does not have one, so meals have to be prepared elsewhere but are kept warm there.
COA employees worked “seven days a week” so the activity building could re-open Oct. 3, Goodwin said.
“A lot is going on. These people look forward to this,” Goodwin said. “They say ‘I won’t see you again until Monday.’ This is a second home.”
Kevin Fambrough is a reporter at the Livingston Parish News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @fambroughkevin.