Devola resident Charlotte Johnson looks forward to her weekly visits from Patty Buck and not just because Buck does her laundry, dusting, sweeping and other household chores.
"The company is a lot of support, too, someone to talk to, like a visit from a friend," said Johnson, 84.
Buck is the living assistance coordinator for the O'Neill Center and has been working with Johnson for about 10 years. That help, with common chores many people might take for granted, means the world to Johnson.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Devola resident Charlotte Johnson, left, folds laundry with Patty Buck, living assistance coordinator with the O’Neill Center. Buck assists Johnson by doing housework and cleaning, which allows Johnson to remain in her home.
"I don't know what I would do without them," said Johnson, who needed assistance because of health problems that started with a brain tumor diagnosis in 1999. "I would have to go to a nursing home or somewhere. ... I wouldn't even be able to stay home at all."
Living assistance is just one of the services supported by the Washington County senior services levy, which voters are being asked to renew in November for an additional five years. The levy raises a slightly more than $1 million a year and currently costs the owner of a home valued at $100,000 an annual $23.28.
If approved, the levy would have the same rate of 0.85 mills approved by voters in 2001 and when it was renewed in 2005. But because the annual total amount it could raise was locked in during the last election, the effective rate is currently 0.76 mills.
By the numbers
Washington County senior services levy (replacement)
The levy is 0.85 mills.
The owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay $26.03 a year.
The owner of commercial property valued at $100,000 would pay $29.75 a year.
It would raise approximately $1,056,164 a year for O'Neill Center service programs, Community Action senior nutrition programs and improvements to facilities serving area seniors.
Source: Washington County auditor.
Using the 0.85-mill amount, the renewed levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $26.03 a year and the owner of a $100,000 commercial property $29.75 a year. The levy is projected to raise about $50,000 a year more than it did previously.
County Commissioner Cora Marshall said keeping the same levy rate helps the agencies it funds deal with rising costs and diminishing money from other sources.
"State and federal funding has been cut. It's just good that they didn't have to increase it," she said.
The majority of the levy funds, about 58 percent, go to the O'Neill Center, which is located in Marietta but provides services to senior citizens around the county. Nearly 32 percent is allocated to Washington-Morgan Community Action, which uses the money for senior nutrition and assistance programs.
Another 7.1 percent funds the O'Neill's prescription drug assistance program, while 2.8 percent goes to the Retired Senior Volunteer Program.
The levy funds account for about 62 percent of the O'Neill Center's nearly $1 million annual budget. The money goes toward programs at the O'Neill like the living assistance that benefits Johnson, as well as adult day care, in-home health care, medical transportation and more.
"It means a lot for the seniors that we serve," said Terry Zdrale, executive director of the center.
She added that the services also benefit other county residents, such as those who might not have another option for care for elderly relatives.
"While they're here during the day, that person can continue to work," she said.
The O'Neill is also known for the social opportunities it provides, including bus trips but the levy money is not used for those ventures, Zdrale said.
"We spend all of that (levy money) in the service area," she said. "There are some activities that have to support themselves."
Community Action's senior programs get about 35 percent of their budget from the senior levy, said Carrie McNamee, director of senior and community services.
Levy funds allowed the agency to add two congregate nutrition sites, which provide meals to seniors, at Rockland United Methodist Church in Belpre and Layman United Methodist Church. The money also helped reduce the waiting list for seniors requesting home-delivered meals.
From 2006 to 2010, the levy funds provided 65,703 meals at the senior nutrition sites and 69,498 home-delivered meals, according to the Washington County Senior Services Levy Committee.
For some seniors like Johnson, receiving assistance with household tasks and nutritious meals is enough to keep them in their homes instead of moving to an assisted living facility, Zdrale said. Once an individual's personal finances are exhausted, such care would be paid for by public money, she said.
"It's a good investment, really," Zdrale said. "We're hopeful that the people will see the value."
The levy also provides $50,000 a year for commissioners to allocate among the various community senior centers around the county, said Paul Cunningham, county administrator.
"We've gotten new cabinets, (a) new roof, new ceilings, new fans and new flooring," said 80-year-old Duane Pool, a regular at the John Dodge Senior Center in Beverly.
Pool said he also appreciates the funding the levy provides for nutrition sites like the John Dodge center.
"This way I get a good, balanced meal once a day," said Pool, who lives alone.
Senior levy funds have also helped with improvements at the Independence Township Building, where the Independence Township Senior Citizens meet. Additions have included a window air-conditioning unit, new carpeting, folding chairs, landscaping and a cement pad for parking.
"That's the only funding we get but we take dues for get-well cards or flowers for a death," said Dorothy Hendricks, president of the seniors group.
The levy has passed with strong support in the past and several community members indicated they would back it in November.
Dunham Township resident Martin Suprano, 75, said he and his wife haven't taken advantage of the services funded by the levy but he is likely to vote for it.
"There's people probably less fortunate than I am," he said.
Marietta resident Jamie McCombs, 34, said she believes the levy addresses important concerns.
"I know a lot of the elderly are having problems paying for their prescription medications," she said. "Meals on Wheels I think is excellent. One of the major issues for the elderly is malnutrition."