Starting July 1, the Elderbridge Agency on Aging will expand from its Mason City headquarters to provide service to nine area counties, including Buena Vista, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Lyon, O'Brien, Osceola, Palo Alto and Sioux.
Elderbridge will be available to meet members of the community and to answer questions on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Clay County Heritage Center. In addition to Tagesen, participants will be able to meet some of the new staff that will be working in Spencer and in the other locations in their expanded service area.
The local area, now serviced by the Northwest Iowa Aging Association, was designated to Elderbridge after a competitive bid between the agencies.
During the 2011 legislative session, Iowa's General Assembly passed a bill that required the state Department of Aging to reduce the number of agencies from 13 to 6.
The competitive bid between Elderbridge and Northwest Aging began out of a merger between the agencies. Elderbridge Executive Director Mic Tagesen noted that Northwest Aging entered a bid to run the local planning and service area, which included the area Elderbridge serviced. At this point the merger dissipated, and the state designated Elderbridge as the agency to service the area.
"There won't be any gaps in the services we will offer from the services that were offered from Northwest Aging," Tagesen said. "We don't want people scared that their services will be taken away."
With Elderbridge serving as the local aging agency, Northwest Aging will still retain its 501(c)3 nonprofit status, but will no longer receive funding from the state.
In their expansion, Tagesen anticipates that Elderbridge will be hiring several employees.
"We can't show preferential treatment, because we are an equal opportunity employer," he said, "but we do want to work with familiar faces and we want people who have the knowledge and skills needed for the job."
Elderbridge has been serving the Mason City area for the past 39 years. In their expansion, Tagesen notes they are sensitive to the traditions built by Northwest Aging over the years.
"We obviously want to carry our mission forward, but we want to withhold those traditions," he said. "We want to carry out their mission of empowering seniors to live independently as long as they choose to do so."