Senior Center receives accreditation, ‘center of excellence’ designation


Anthony Zompa, the executive director of the Johnston Senior Center, isn’t the least bit fazed at a new expense he recently incurred.

“It will be money well spent,” said Zompa. “It’s not every day a national honor comes along.”

Zompa was speaking about upgrading existing signs and adding new ones because the Johnston Senior Center recently received word from the National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC) that it will now be known as a “Senior Center of Excellence.”

“We’re thrilled,” Zompa said. “This is a huge, huge honor for the Johnston Senior Center. We’ve been placed in an elite category, but more importantly, we have been accredited by the NISC [National Institute for Senior Centers] for five more years.”

Zompa received the news from Maureen Arsenault, program manager of the National Institute for Senior Centers that’s part of the National Council on Aging and is based in Washington, D.C.

“I am pleased to officially inform you that the Accreditation Board met on Dec. 18, 2012, and unanimously approved the recommendation for accreditation of the Johnston Senior Center,” Arsenault wrote. “Successfully achieving accreditation status takes the work of many people both at the senior center and in the community. When these two groups work together, the rewards will be felt for many years to come.”

Zompa agrees that it takes the hard work of many stakeholders to keep the center operating efficiently, including the seven-member advisory board, full-time employees and volunteers.

“Again, we are thrilled because this has been two years in the making. We have been working on our review, etcetera during that time. This is a great honor for our center,” he said.

According to their correspondence, the National Accreditation Board was “very impressed” with the facility and its operations.

“Your organization demonstrates outstanding leadership and commitment to quality programs and services,” Arsenault wrote.

The accreditation status went into effect on Dec. 21, 2012 and will be valid through Dec. 31, 2017.

Rick Eldridge, the executive director of the Rufty-Holmes Senior Center in Salisbury, N.C., headed the senior center’s recent review. Eldridge, who is considered one of the nation’s leaders in his field, is a member of the prestigious White House Conference On Aging.

He is also considered a top Accreditation Reviewer, and once served as president of the National Association On Aging. After the observation visit, Arsenault noted in the report that Eldridge observed “many strengths” at the Johnston Senior Center.

In particular, Eldridge mentioned the modern, attractive look of the center with practical, functional amenities. He was impressed with the knowledgeable and engaged staff, as well as “involved and supportive” volunteers. Eldridge likewise praised the center for its variety of programs, a well-developed strategic plan and a “philosophy of constantly seeking opportunities to improve the center.”

Eldridge’s Rufty-Holmes Senior Center is the first facility in North Carolina to earn the “Center of Excellence” tag. As an authority in senior services, he did provide suggestions for Zompa and his team to continue to improve the facility.

In the coming months, senior center staff will work on addressing the accreditation standards not currently in place, including a code of ethics, evaluation plan and publishing an annual report, among other things. To adhere to the full slate of standards, Johnston must also develop a written policy that addresses the use of the building by the center, the city and other groups and develop a plan for when the director retires. Most of the suggestions deal with the long-term planning and health of the facility.

Zompa said a formal gala event would be held to commemorate the JSC receiving the prestigious national honor.

“We’re going to rest a bit and enjoy this tremendous honor,” he said. “We want to make sure we do it right; just like when we were planning for the review.”

The Johnston Senior Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 944-3343 during regular business hours.


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