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Council on Aging turns focus to helping more veterans

Moscow-Pullman Daily News - 1/23/2020

Jan. 23--A local organization that provides free food and transportation to people on the Palouse has set its sights on helping more military veterans.

The Council on Aging and Human Services, based in Colfax, supports food banks throughout Whitman County and provides free transportation in multiple Washington and Idaho counties through a service called COAST.

The group's board of directors held its annual meeting Tuesday morning to discuss its goals in 2020. Executive Director Paige Collins said the nonprofit wants to reach more veterans, as well as nonsenior citizens, to let them know about its services.

To better understand how to help more veterans, she said the Council on Aging and Human Services wants to recruit a military veteran to join the board and have been in contact with a member of Cathy McMorris Rodgers' staff to assist them in their efforts.

Collins said her staff wants to help veterans who cannot get to food banks or who do not know about COAST.

One of the challenges they expect, she said, is helping veterans overcome the stigma that often comes with seeking these services. Collins said many people, veterans and otherwise, are afraid of being labeled as lazy.

"They have that old feeling of, 'I don't want to be a food bank person,' " she said.

Collins said many people who use their services learn to appreciate them, not only because it meets their needs but because it is a chance to socialize with other people. She said people can enjoy commiserating with each other at the food bank and at senior meals, which are free of charge and served in Pullman, Palouse, Colfax and Lacrosse.

Another misconception, she said, is that these services are only for the elderly. The name, Council on Aging, misleads younger people from thinking they can or should use COAST or the food banks. Collins said the board is thinking about rebranding the organization to eliminate that misconception.

"We serve everybody," she said.

Collins said 25 volunteer drivers and 13 staff drivers operate COAST in four Washington counties and five Idaho counties. It provides transportation for those with a special need for a ride. For example, someone who cannot drive because of an injury can call COAST to get a ride to the doctor or grocery store, she said.

On Jan. 8, COAST provided a record number of transports as 58 people were given 112 rides.

The Council on Aging has also partnered with the William A. Crosetto Mobile Health Care Unit, a mobile medical unit that travels across Washington providing health screenings. It is scheduled to travel to Endicott on Jan. 28.

Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to akuipers@dnews.com.

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