By William K. Alcorn
It’s a home away from home — a second family, a safe alternative to staying home alone and staring at four walls, a respite from loneliness.
For these and other reasons, clients of the Mahoning County Adult Day Services program for senior citizens say it’s important to give thanks this Thanksgiving.
In addition, they say they are thankful for new, larger and brighter digs in Austintown at 110 Westchester Drive close to the Mahoning County Health Department, which originated the program in 1974.
“We’re not enclosed anymore. You can see outdoors,” said Mona Judy, a client, gesturing at the windows with sunlight streaming in.
The ADS program moved Sept. 14 to the Austintown site from more closed-in quarters in the Mahoning County South Side Annex on Market Street.
The ADS staff also is glad to be in new quarters.
The space is roomier and brighter and close to the board offices in case more nurses are needed quickly, said Diana Colaianni, director of nursing for the Mahoning County District Board of Health.
“Everybody loves the new space. It is open and well-lighted with windows. And everybody can see everybody,” said Joyce Naymick, activities director for the program for 22 years.
“We are in a good work area that we hope will provide opportunities for expansion and more private-pay clients,” said Patricia Sweeney, county health commissioner.
The ADS program also provides economical respite for working families that have responsibilities for elderly or disabled family members who want a facility with age-appropriate activities and good friendships in a supervised setting, she said.
“And we have a very devoted staff that includes a full-time activities director, full-time bus driver, a part-time nurse; and two aides provided through the Mature Services program,” Sweeney said.
Besides Naymick and Colaianni, staff members include Will Michael, transportation director and data input operator, and Michelle Rice, part-time nurse.
The program is for frail seniors who otherwise might need to be in more expensive assisted-living or nursing facilities, said Colaianni.
About 40 to 50 people are in the program weekly, most in their 80s and 90s and many who have been clients for more than 10 years.
For information about the program, call 330-779-3130.
Bessie Daniels of Campbell, who helps her daughter raise three young children, said she is glad to have the program during the day while the kids are in school.
“I have a chance to be with adults my age. I have a lot of fun and meet a lot of people,” said Daniels, who has been in the program for 15 years.
“ I don’t have to stay home by myself all the time; they even come and get me with a bus,” said Betty McQueen of Youngstown. “All these people are my friends.”
Naomi Oates of Youngstown said she is having her daughter and adult grandchildren at home for Thanksgiving, and added she is doing the turkey and sweet potato pie.
“I love this place. We’re all friendly and look out for each other and treat each other with respect. It makes me feel good inside,” said Amelia Brewer of Youngstown.
Edward Gabrick of Cornersburg, who has been coming to the program for about 13 years, particularly enjoys the projects. The former industrial engineer at Amweld Building Products in Niles is building a whirly-jig. Gabrick said his children are happy he comes to the program and gets out of the house.
Frank Guzman of Youngstown said he is spending Thanksgiving with his family, but his coming to the program every day enables family members to get to work.
Among the many ADS activities is the annual Christmas raffle for four baskets created by Naymick. Tickets, available in the Nursing Division or at ADS, are $1 each or six for $5. The drawing is Dec. 7.
The ADS program is funded by the PASSPORT program through the Ohio Department of Aging, Title III through Area Agency on Aging, fees and donations.
None of this would have been possible without philanthropists Anthony and Mary Lariccia and their family, who gave the program $60,000 in 2008 when it was threatened with closure and pledged the same amount every year as long as it is needed. To date, they have gifted $300,000 to ADS, Colaianni said.
“We are all thankful we have a better, brighter and larger space for our seniors, and for the cooperation of the Austintown Township trustees, who own the building, and the Mahoning County Board of Commissioners. We are blessed,” Colaianni said.
“I come here every day. If you stay at home all you get are four walls. There is no one to talk to. It was depressing. Here they keep our hands moving and our minds in gear. We are like brothers and sisters ... this is like family,” Judy said.