Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 8:06 PM on Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Homer Senior Citizens controversy may be opportunity in disguise

Usually, Homer's cabin fever controversy comes about mid-February. This year, it came a bit late, in the last gasp of winter. Last Thursday's Homer Senior Citizens Inc. board meeting ranks up there as one of the more contentious community meetings.

Our distinguished elders got a little testy. The controversy was that two employees of Friendship Center, Gay Pendleton and Pat Doyle, quit over an apparent disagreement with executive director Sue Samet. Then, the senior citizens board fired Samet. At the regular board meeting on March 24, about 30 people spoke in favor of Pendleton and Doyle or in favor of Samet. Some comments were met with boos and hisses.

The controversy is a good reminder of the importance of the programs of Homer Senior Citizens Inc. You can judge a community by how well it treats children and elders. Judging by the number of programs Homer has for its oldest and youngest citizens, Homer does well. The Homer Senior Center is the heart of our senior community. For many seniors, it's their home, whether in the independent living apartments or assisted living. It's also their social center and a place to get a good hot meal. Some of us at the Homer News have family benefiting from Homer Senior Citizens Inc., so, full disclosure, we want it to continue serving our families well.

That Homer has such good programs for seniors has contributed to our economic well being. Alaskans and those from the Lower 48 choose to retire here because of good senior services. Many of us can continue living here by moving our parents from Outside to live near those services.

Everyone benefits by living with elders who have wisdom and experience. When we wonder how we're going to survive a nuclear crisis in Japan and political upheavals in the Middle East, not to mention a challenged economy, those in the Greatest Generation are likely to have some good advice. They've been there, done that, fought the war, rebuilt the world.

Homer Senior Citizens Inc. has gone through some upheavals of its own, including three directors in two years. We don't know why and we'll reserve judgment, but we'll hazard a guess that something just isn't clicking. Maybe it's bad luck. Maybe it's an overworked board. Maybe it's changing times in senior health care.

The controversy that comes with change can cause chaos, but it also can lead to creativity and great opportunities. We hope Homer Senior Citizens Inc. takes this challenge as a chance to see what it can do to make things better. Maybe the board needs to do a review of its policies. Maybe it needs to hold a staff and board retreat. Maybe it needs to reach out to its members and supporters for advice. Maybe new people need to get involved.

Homer Seniors Citizens Inc. is a community treasure, and this controversy doesn't change that. The board took a beating last week, and at the end they thanked those who spoke out.

Speak out, but listen. Our seniors have done right by us; we should pay them forward by continuing to do right by them.