Right around the time Dorothy Phillips turned 65, she began volunteering for Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington.
The organization was established in 1973 as a watchdog agency for seniors throughout Eastern Washington and North Idaho, operating under the auspices of the United Way. As one of 700 advocacy groups of its kind in the country, ALTCEW provides support services for elderly residents in areas like nutrition, housing and medical care.
For Phillips – now 89 – devoting time to such a worthwhile cause made sense.
“My mission in life is to take care of others who can’t take care of themselves,” she said.
Last Friday, Phillips was among a crowd who showed up at ALTCEW headquarters to celebrate the 30th anniversary of a regional institution that has made a positive impact in the lives of so many.
While the agency has actually been in existence for 35 years, the event centered around the establishment of ALTCEW as a freestanding nonprofit organization in 1978 after the Spokane City Council and commissioners from Pend Oreille, Spokane, Ferry, Stevens and Whitman counties voted to set up one regional entity that would oversee senior services. That same year, ALTCEW joined with Spokane Mental Health to provide help for issues like depression and Alzheimer’s.
“This is a special event in the life of this agency,” said Greg Parich, chairman of ALTCEW’s governing board who described how the organization has always striven to “work together for strong, healthy, supportive communities.”
Chisato Kawabori, who worked for 30 years as a regional administrator with the U.S. Administration on Aging, described how funding for agencies like ALTCEW began with the Older Americans Act of 1965 – the same legislation that created Medicare and Medicaid – and improved with each passing year.
Prior to the formation of nationwide agencies on aging, which began to be established in the early 1970s, Kawabori said “there wasn’t a lot of advocacy for seniors.”
“They were able to bring together all the factions, so that everyone knew where an older person could go for help,” he said.
ALCEW continues to serve as a valuable source of support and protection for local seniors, overseeing resources like Elder Services and the Statewide Health Insurance Advisory program, a free counseling service that helps residents navigate the maze of insurance options and report cases of fraud.
“We wouldn’t be here without all our community agencies,” said Nick Beamer, executive director of ALTCEW.
Ted Stevens, who served as director of the organization from 1973 to 1986, recalled how the Senior Citizens Services Act, passed by the state legislature in 1976, provided valuable funds for the cause, propelling ALTCEW’s budget up to $1 million by 1977.
“By that time, we had become larger than the United Way,” Stevens said. “It made sense for us to be a freestanding, public intergovernmental organization with public accountability.”
ALTCEW’s budget currently sits at $10 million per year, benefiting from steady increases in Medicaid funding. In 1978, the agency oversaw 22 programs – that total is now at 33. In 2007, ALTCEW provided funding for 147,000 meals to over 1,000 homebound residents through programs like Meals on Wheels.
“I don’t know where we’d be without them,” said Pam Almeida, executive director of Spokane Valley Meals on Wheels. “They make the state legislature aware of the needs of seniors.”
Want to find out more?
To learn more about the programs offered by Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington or to volunteer, call 458-2509 or visit www.altcew.org.