Posted May 16, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Reader commentary: SAAA board chairman to retire, says agency is back on track

By John Hudson

After seven years of volunteer board service to the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, I am retiring as a board member and chairman at the conclusion of the board meeting on Monday.

As SAAA's board chair since August 2011, the time required of me to participate in SAAA business, board meetings, legal challenges and public relations management has been significant. My family and my employer have been extremely generous in allowing me to spend that much time away from my personal and professional priorities. I am grateful to them both. But it is now time to re-focus my attention on those priorities.

By virtue of my hastily being named board chair, I became the "face" of the challenges at SAAA and, along with board members and staff, made every effort to strengthen and defend the agency. There was never a question as to whether it was worth the effort. We all knew that thousands of seniors in our area depended on the agency to provide critical services - services that have continued without interruption through all of the agency's upheaval. I am perhaps most proud of that.

I have made the decision to retire because my confidence in the SAAA to move ahead in a positive way has never been stronger. Over the past months, significant changes have been made to the processes and procedures of the agency, adopting tested methods of accounting and bookkeeping practices that raise a donor's confidence exponentially. The agency is audited by a reputable firm and the financial conclusions can be trusted.

Spending and budgeting are judicious. The city/counties have identified and appointed strong professionals to our already exceptional volunteer board that collectively works as a team to mitigate lingering financial issues and construct the agency's stable future. The board is undertaking a fundraising campaign to retire debt and strengthen the agency even further and will be asking for the public's help. I hope the public recognizes the value in donating to area seniors and SAAA's future and give generously. As with most organizations, community support ultimately will dictate the long-term viability of the agency.

Many volunteers with other organizations have commented to me that, due to the SAAA's challenges, their organizations have been strengthened as a result. Healthy, candid discussions are taking place around board tables covering everything from reviews of processes to performance evaluations to risk management. Those frank conversations are key to an organization's soundness and I am encouraged to see such discussions taking place and credit the SAAA with fueling those positive changes.

When I was first thrust into this role, I remember a senior who approached me at one of the active living center events and pointedly asked me, "Are you the new chairman of the SAAA?" I told her I was. She then looked sternly into my eyes and said with some urgency, "Fix it." I hope that her confidence level in the agency's future, as well as the level of all seniors in our area, has returned.

The current volunteer members and paid staffers have the talent, expertise and motivation to move this agency forward and, for that, I am grateful - not only for me but for the thousands of seniors who benefit from their volunteer participation. God willing, we all will reach the golden years and experience first-hand what SAAA does day-in and day-out to improve our quality of life with dignity and compassion.

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve alongside such dedicated volunteers and staffers. They have a friend and a supporter in me in the years to come.

John Hudson of Berryville is chairman of the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging.

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