Our History at CSS
We Are Now Celebrating 46 Years of Service in Johnston County
Johnston County Council on Aging (COA) was incorporated in 1972 as a private non-profit (501c3) to provide supportive services to older adults.
The first two nutrition sites were opened in 1974; one on Edgerton Court in Smithfield and the other in Selma. COA and Johnston-Lee Community Action joined forces to open the first Senior Center in Micro. The nutrition site in Four Oaks was opened in 1977 at the Four Oaks Church of God. COA and Johnston-Lee Community Action again worked together to open the Clayton Senior Center in 1978. Bill Massey, retired Register of Deeds, donated the building and completed renovations in order to meet the required standards.
Sherry Stockman, Executive Director of COA during the early stages, made COA a more viable part of the community and the state's aging program. She relocated to the Greensboro area in 1977 and during the next few years, there was a steady stream of acting directors. This was a challenging time for staff but everyone pitched in and kept the agency and programs going.
In 1980, the administrative office moved from North Street to 7th Street in Smithfield and in that same year the Smithfield Senior Center opened. For a period of time there were two Senior Centers in town; Smithfield and Edgerton Court. Edgerton Court eventually closed and the staff went to the Princeton Senior Center which opened in 1987.
Patricia (Cunningham) Meals became the Executive Director in 1980. During her tenure, 1980-1991, COA became actively involved in all aspects of the aging field.
Seed money was awarded to COA, as an aging service provider, to start the Homemaker Home Health Aid Program. This program, and the Home Health Nurses assigned to Johnston-Lee Community Action, was eventually transferred to the Johnston County Health Department.
In 1982, COA became the managing agent for Triangle Housing Development Corporation. The first project to open was in Kenly; then Princeton and Smithfield. In 1985, COA took over management for the projects on Clayton and Cary. Also in 1985, COA and Johnston County Mental Health Center joined forces to provide transitional housing for chronically mentally ill persons.
In 1988, COA sponsored the first Senior Games in Johnston County. Janice Woodard was hired as Coordinator. She left COA in 1989 but continued as coordinator of the Games through the 1990-91 season. Larry Bailey, Director of Claytons Parks and Recreation Service, assumed the role of Coordinator during the 1991-92 season.
By the early 1980s, three Johnston County agencies were providing non-emergency transportation services to their respective clients; Johnston County Mental Health Dept, Johnston County Dept of Social Services, and Johnston County Council on Aging (COA). Each of these three agencies operated their own vehicles.
The NC Dept of Transportation (NCDOT) determined that the County should develop a transportation plan to address the need for improved efficiencies and service. In 1985, under County guidance, the Coordinated Transportation System, Inc. (CTS) was formed. Its uncompensated members included Johnston County Council on Aging, Johnston County Board of Education, Johnston County Departments of Health, Mental Health and Social Services, Johnston-Lee Community Action, Johnston County Industries, and Tri-County Health Center. The system operated as Johnston County Area Transportation System (JCATS).
Because CTS had no actual staff, this eventually became an issue for NCDOT auditors and so, the CTS Board considered these options:
1- Request to become a department of County government
2- Request to become a part of an existing eligible agency
Having explored all of the above options, #2 was selected and on August 7, 2000, by mutual consent of all parties, the Johnston County Commissioners adopted a Resolution naming the Johnston County Council on Aging, Inc., the governing authority and agency of record, replacing CTS. As a result, the Coordinated Transportation System, Inc. then had no further responsibilities. Several of the members of the former CTS Board then became members of a newly formed Transportation Advisory Board. JCATS became a division of COA.
Paul Brown served as Executive Director of COA for a brief period starting in 1991. The funding for the Village Gardens elderly apartments project was secured during his tenure.
He was followed by Donna Creech who started in 1993. Donna oversaw the actual construction of Village Gardens. Donna led the development of JCATS into a consolidated transportation system. She computerized the office functions and orchestrated a deal with the county to relocate to the current facility. She served as President of the North Carolina Association on Aging. COA prospered during her tenure because of her strong ties with county and business leaders. Donna served for 15 years and retired in 2008.
Donna was followed by Jane Schirmer who started in 2008. During Jane's tenure, COA began the process of refinancing and consolidating four of our HUD elderly housing projects into one new entity. Little did anyone know at that time, the approval process would take 20 months to complete, largely due to red tape beyond our control. Following a period of turmoil within COA, Jane resigned on December 9, 2010.
Neal Davis began service as Interim Executive Director on December 10, 2010. Among his first tasks was to help lead JCATS through a 5-year community transportation plan required by the NC Dept of Transportation. One of the requirements of this plan was to develop strategies to broaden the demand-based community transportation system to also include general public services that might eventually lead to fixed route and commuter service into Raleigh and other urban areas. Following approval of the 5-year plan, the agency applied for and was awarded a 2-year grant to help pay for expanded transportation services.
In March of 2011 Neal was appointed as permanent Director. In April 2011 the Board agreed on a rebranding strategy that would better communicate the agency's three primary areas of activity; senior services, elderly and disabled housing, and community transportation. As a part of that strategy and following a similar trend amongst Councils on Aging elsewhere, a Resolution was adopted to rename the organization. The name chosen was Community and Senior Services of Johnston County, Inc. (CSS).
In June 2011, CSS was finally approved for their long-awaited $2.9M HUD refinancing. Work began immediately to renovate several of the complexes using approximately $980,000 of the refinance package. CSS also applied for and was awarded a grant by the NC Housing Finance Agency for a Single Family Rehab (SFR) program to refurbish homes owned by elderly and disabled citizens.
In 2012, two new programs were created:
The “Golden Wishes” program invites home-delivered-meals recipients to list gifts that they might like to receive at Christmas. Those ‘wishes’ are then paired with volunteers and businesses who are willing to purchase the gifts and deliver them in person at Christmas. This program proved to be especially rewarding to the ‘givers’ and has grown every year since its inception.
Secondly, the “Active Aging Alliance” was formed to provide a forum for senior citizens to communicate with one another, community, and state leaders. This group meets periodically and provides a non-partisan avenue for advocacy.
In the Spring of 2013, the CSS Board developed a 3-year strategic plan that would map the agency’s course for the future. The agency’s mission statement was revised and goals were created in three primary areas of focus;
1) Service Delivery, 2) Sustainability, and 3) Advocacy.
Each of these goal include several sub-goals and action steps along with assignment of responsibilities and a timetable for completion.
As part of the new plan and in keeping with the state’s new definitions, the agency’s six small senior centers were reorganized into two groups: Clayton, Benson, and Selma were restructured to expand as multipurpose “Centers for Active Aging” while Smithfield, Princeton, and Kenly were restructured as nutrition sites, denoted as “Senior Dining Centers”.
In April 2013, Benson and Selma were approved by the State of North Carolina as “Developing Senior Centers”, giving them a 2-year window to become full-time multipurpose senior centers. As part of that process, CSS and the Town of Selma jointly submitted a proposal to the NC Dept. of Commerce for a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to renovate a vacant classroom building on the former Richard B. Harrison school campus into a 6,500 sq. ft. multipurpose senior center. The grant was awarded, renovations were completed, and on June 1, 2014 the “Harrison Center for Active Aging” celebrated its grand opening making it the county’s largest senior center.
Simultaneous to the renovation of the Harrison facility, CSS was busy preparing for the Clayton Center for Active Aging to become a state-certified senior center. On June 6, 2014 following a thorough inspection by a state SCOPE site-visit team, Clayton was approved as a “Senior Center of Excellence”, the state’s highest rating.
Also during 2011-2014, JCATS expanded its operations. In order to ensure Medicaid NEMT compliance and to minimize liability, JCATS eliminated all sub-contracted transportation services and began to fulfill those responsibilities directly. Additional grant funding was awarded and JCATS outfitted all vehicles with mobile data terminals and camera systems. JCATS also installed new auto-scheduling and GPS tracking technology. In 2013, the JCATS fleet parking lot was paved thus enabling safer passenger transfer and snow removal. By the end of 2013, the JCATS fleet was driving a distance equivalent to a trip from New York to Los Angeles, every day!
Following two years of requirements, in 2016 the Harrison Center for Active Aging was designated as our second "Center of Excellence" by the Dept. of Health and Human Services, Div. of Aging. Our Benson Center for Active Aging was also expanded to a full-time multi-purpose center.
During 2014-15, our Board of Directors revamped our By-laws and reorganized our Housing management. This resulted in a simplified organizational structure and also satisfied new compliance requirements.
In response to growing transportation demand resulting in expanded staff and fleet size, JCATS outgrew its operations and maintenance buildings. In early 2016, NCDOT funded a Feasibility Study to consider an expanded facility for JCATS. This is a year-long process to evaluate future growth, service area, and projected capacity requirements for the next 30 years. Upon conclusion of the study, projected costs are determined which will enable JCATS to arrange funding for eventual construction.
In 2016, JCATS was honored to earn a Safety Award from the NC Public Transportation Association. The scoring for this award is based on total miles traveled, number of rides provided, and number of injuries. JCATS ranked first among systems traveling over 500,000 mile per year.
Social media is an important tool in the communication of our services. In 2016, CSS and JCATS completed an extensive redesign of our web sites. CSS also launched Facebook pages for each of its three multi-purpose senior centers. The agency prints a bi-monthly newsletter which is distributed throughout the county and is also available online. The agency's Annual Report is printed in-house and is available online as well.
In early 2016, Mr. Tony Braswell, Chairman of our County Commissioners appointed a 3-member committee to oversee development of the county's first Master Aging Plan. That committee, led by Commissioner Ted Godwin looked to CSS to help fulfill that goal. CSS Director of Community Services, Madison Bottoms worked with the Board of Directors and the Commissioner's committee to develop an aging plan that was consistent with the state plan and the plan of the Triangle-J Area Agency on Aging. Many county departments and collaborating agencies participated in the plan's development. Proudly, the Commissioners adopted Johnston County's first-ever Master Aging Plan in June of 2016.
Today, CSS continues to honor its original mission of serving older adults with an even broader array of programs spanning human services, housing, and transportation.