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TARCOG News & Headlines

Read on for recent happenings, announcements, and notable headlines from TARCOG and its communities throughout the region.

New Sharon Senior Center to Reopen in June

Terry Smith at the New Sharon Senior Center in Hazel Green in Madison County.

Terry Smith has a lot of ideas for the New Sharon Senior Center in Hazel Green. But what she really wants is to hear from those who will be visiting once it reopens in June.

“Whoever comes, I want to hear what they want to get out of their center,” said Terry, who was hired as the center’s nutrition manager in February.

Rosalyn Leavell-Rice, nutrition coordinator for Studio 60, also oversees all nutrition programs in Madison County. She said since the New Sharon center closed November 2023, it has been undergoing renovations. She said one of the key components to reopening the center was hiring Terry to manage it.

Terry has already started listening as she’s called all the former participants. She’s also called others in the surrounding area of Meridianville. She said she’s talked to several people who have never been to or even heard of the center and she’s invited them to consider coming after it reopens on Friday, June 7.

“I had to leave a message for a lot of them but often when they heard my message, they called me back and were so excited asking when it is going to be open,” Terry said.

She’s had a few people who have volunteered to help her get things ready for the reopening.

Carolyn Franklin, a former New Sharon Senior Center participant, has already met Terry and has been volunteering over the past several weeks to help her get the center in order. She’s also recruited a few other volunteers to help.

“Me and the people I talk to are very excited about the center reopening,” Carolyn said. “We want it to hurry up and open.”

Carolyn said the center, which is in what used to be the old New Sharon School lunchroom, looks 100 percent better than when it closed last year.

The center has been freshly painted, cleaned and buffed floors, and renovated bathrooms with grab bars and higher toilet seats.

“We’ve helped her put up new blinds, washed and cleaned everything in the kitchen and we’ve rearranged the tables, Carolyn said. “It’s looking really good in there and it’s a nice place for seniors to come. It feels more like home.”

She said they’re impressed with Terry too.

“Terry is easy to talk to,” Carolyn said. “She listens and we can suggest something to her, and she takes it into consideration. She’s one of us.”

Terry said she’s loved getting to know Carolyn and working with all the volunteers who have helped get their center ready to reopen.

“I’m excited to be here and look forward to their ideas,” Terry said. “Mainly, I want everyone to feel free to be themselves and we will work together to figure out what the center will become to meet the needs of the community.”

Qualify for Masters Games of Alabama in June

Cornhole competition at the 2023 Masters Games of Alabama in Valley

.It’s almost time for the Masters Games of Alabama preliminaries.

Whether your game is dominos, basketball free throw or 3-on-3, cornhole, Rook, softball throw, table tennis, billiards, Nerf or Frisbee throw, shuffleboard, bowling, or golf, there’s a time and place for you to try out in June.

North Alabama seniors have a history of being competitive in the games. In 2023, 39 North Alabama seniors earned 51 gold medals, 19 silver, and 23 bronze medals, along with another 14 medals for the completion of a One Mile Fun Walk.

What are Masters Games?

Masters Games of Alabama is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles for active adults ages 50 and older through social, mental, and physical activities.

The games were developed in Oxford, AL in 1989 to provide an opportunity to maintain an active lifestyle by participating in a variety of events.  While the games provide an Olympic-type atmosphere, the focus is not on competition, but fun and fellowship.

Each year there are between 600 and 800 participants from across the state preliminaries.

You must qualify at a district games competition to compete at the State Games. The state competition will be held in Valley, near Auburn, September 23 – 26.

How to participate?

For Masters Games, the TARCOG and NARCOG regions make up District 2. That means men and women aged 50 and older from Cullman, DeKalb, Jackson, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marshall, & Morgan counties may participate in upcoming preliminaries.

There is a $10 registration fee, which can be paid by cash checks made payable to Studio 60. The deadline to register is May 23, 2024.

Where and when will the preliminaries be held?

Athens Recreation Center, 21281 Sportsplex Loop in Athens (256-233-8740)

June 12, 2024

  • Domino Doubles
  • Domino Singles

June 14, 2024

  • Basketball Free Throw
  • Cornhole
  • Rook
  • Softball Throw

Brahan Springs Recreation Center, 3770 Ivy Ave., Huntsville (256-883-3710)

June 20, 2024

  • Table Tennis

Studio 60, 2200 Drake Ave. SW, Huntsville, (256-880-7080)

June 21, 2024


Nerf Throw and Frisbee Throw


AMF Bowling, 3117 6TH Ave. SE, Decatur, 256-353-3162

June 27, 2024

  • Bowling

What about 3-on-3 and golf?

For information and to register for the 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament, contact Sandi Wilson at 205-978-0163.

For information and to register for Golf Singles and 2-man Scramble, contact Daisy Bolden at 334-240-4667

Any other Masters Games Activities?

A 5K Run/Walk will be held only at the State Games site in Valley. For more information or to register, contact Debbie Martinez at (256) 880-7080 by July 15. Anyone with questions or who is from a county outside of District 2 may also contact Martinez.



A big crowd celebrates Older Americans Month at the Alabama A&M Agribition Center on Tuesday, May 14.

When Willie Mae Baker of Athens arrived at the Alabama A&M Agribition Center in Huntsville on Tuesday morning, she knew a good time was in store at the TARCOG Senior Fun Fest.

“It’s a big old fun thing I’m used to coming to,” said Baker, who has been attending the annual Fun Fest for at least 10 years. “I love it. I love it.”

Willie Mae was among about 800 from Northeast Alabama who enjoyed musical and dance performances, games, refreshments, lunch, and door prizes to celebrate Older Americans Month at TARCOG’s Senior Fun Fest in Huntsville on Tuesday, May 14.

Willie Mae Baker arrives for TARCOG’s Senior Fun Fest on Tuesday, May 14.

One thing was different for the 37th Annual Fun Fest. For the first time in the event’s history, it wasn’t held at Sharon Johnston Park in New Market.

TARCOG Executive Director Michelle Jordan said it was a tough decision because everyone loves the park. But the forecasted rain and storms forced a last-minute change to the Agribition Center, where events could be safely held indoors.

Aside from a few sprinkles throughout the morning, participants from DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, Madison and Marshall counties got to have their celebration before forecasted rain and storms later in the afternoon.

Brenda Littrell, of Paint Rock, attended her first ever TARCOG Senior Fun Fest this week and had a blast enjoying the music and activities.

Brenda Littrell, of Paint Rock, and Linda Larcom, nutrition coordinator for the Jackson County Council on Aging at TARCOG’s 37th Annual Senior Fun Fest.

“I love it, I love it, I love it I’ll be here again when you have it,” she said near the end of the event.

Seniors participated in the Fun Fest from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Tuesday. The honorary co-chairs of the event were Nancy Robertson, TARCOG’s former executive director, and Rene Breland, the agency’s former director of aging programs. This was the first regional Fun Fest since 2019 and since both retired from the agency.

The event was co-sponsored by the Madison County Commission, with Commission Chair Mac McCutcheon and Commissioners Tom Brandon, Violet Edwards and Steve Haraway attending.

McCutcheon and Haraway are TARCOG board members. Other TARCOG board members who participated included Limestone County Commission Chair Colin Daly, Athens City Councilman James Lucas, Huntsville City Councilwoman Jennie Robinson and Helen Carter, an Athens resident.

The event was held in Brandon’s County Commission District, where Sharon Johnston Park and The Agribition Center are located. County parks and recreation staff helped throughout the months of planning and on event day, Michelle said. The Agribition Center staff were also integral in making the last-minute venue shift.

“It takes a team effort to pull off an event of this size for our seniors,” Michelle said.

There were about 40 vendors and exhibitors which added to the fun environment with giveaways, activities, and snacks. There was a cooking lesson, photo sessions, and opportunities for health screenings among the many offerings of the day.

“It was truly a fun day for our seniors,” Michelle said. “We saw a lot of smiling faces and that’s the whole goal of this Fun Fest. We want them to have a day that’s all about them, and a chance to feel like a kid again.”

Senior Employment Success!

Bunny Graves

At age 84, Bunny Graves enjoys working for extra money with a job she landed through TARCOG’s senior job training program.

“It has helped me tremendously especially the way prices keep going up and up,” Bunny said. She reached out to John Sanders, manager of TARCOG’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) back in September 2022 after learning about the program while donating to a local charity.

“During Covid, prices started going up and while I felt like I had enough to survive, I thought it would be nice to have some pin money,” Bunny said. “If you don’t know what pin money is, it’s from a long time ago when the ladies used to save all their money from selling their bread, eggs or vegetables from their gardens so they could buy steel sewing pins, and that’s why it’s called ‘pin’ money.”

She hadn’t worked anywhere since 2011, but John said she had a solid work history and a great attitude. Placement during the pandemic was challenging, but he had assignments to keep Bunny busy until a placement worked out.

Bunny remembers going on a couple of interviews that just didn’t work out. But then, she went to the Robert “Bob” Harrison Senior Wellness and Advocacy Center in north Huntsville. That’s where she went into training as a front desk clerk on Dec. 6. 2022. Recently, the center hired her before it was time for her to move to another worksite with the four-year training program.

Working part-time, she fills in for staff if they’re busy, makes out membership applications, gives tours around the building, and helps in any way she can.

“Ms. Bunny has been a joy to us and our customers here at the Bob Harrison Center and her enthusiasm and brightness has brightened my days,” said Deitrick Smart, the center manager.

Bunny was the first SCSEP placement for the Harrison Center, but Deitrick said he’s expecting another trainee to assist with the Nutrition Program starting in June.

“It’s working out great for us,” he said.

John said the senior employment training program is a “win-win” for both sides. In Bunny’s situation, she will work 20 hours each week and her new job netted her a 29 percent pay increase. The senior center gained an employee with a proven track record.

LOCATION CHANGE for Senior Fun Fest

New Location: Alabama A&M Agribition Center, 4925 Moores Mill Road, Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE — Rain may be in the forecast but TARCOG’s Senior Fun Fest will go on rain or shine. The event location, however, is changing. For the first time in 37 years, Senior Fun Fest will be held at the Alabama A&M Agribition Center on Moores Mill Road in Huntsville, not at Sharon Johnston Park in New Market.

“This is our first regional Fun Fest since 2019, before the pandemic, and we do not want to disappoint those planning to come to our biggest event of the year to celebrate Older Americans Month” said TARCOG Executive Director Michelle Jordan. “After the damaging storms we experienced this week, and looking at the rain chances for next week, our team searched for a suitable indoor space rather than canceling.”

Jordan said the lineup and schedule will remain the same, except there won’t be an opportunity to fish.

“We will all miss the park, it’s a beautiful setting for a celebration,” Jordan said. “The important thing is that we won’t have to cancel Senior Fun Fest. It’s going to be a fun day of celebration that everyone who attends is sure to enjoy.”

Seniors will be coming to town from the entire TARCOG Region including DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, Madison and Marshall counties. Fun Fest is sponsored annually by TARCOG and the Madison County Commission, with ticket sales and other local businesses also providing financial support to offset costs.

Tickets are $7 and may be purchased at the event, which will be Tuesday, May 14, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

While participants are arriving between 9 to 9:45 a.m., a Tai Chi for Arthritis class will be held before the festivities begin. Snacks and a boxed lunch will be served, and there will be entertainment, a photo booth, and activities like BINGO, Corn Hole, Nerf Ball Throw, Frisbee Throw, and more — plus door prizes.

More information is available by calling 256-830-0818, or

TARCOG Employee of the Month – May 2024

Name: Ruby Banks

Title: IT Specialist

How long have you been at TARCOG and what do you do? I have been with TARCOG for two years and I am the onsite support for our technical support consultants.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A nurse.

What do you hope to accomplish within the next year? Take some additional IT courses for certifications.

Who is your hero and why? My parents, they laid the foundation for me with a roadmap to follow in a positive way.

If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? Visit the Holy Land.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you? Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today.

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done? I did a safari in Florida on an open trolley train. The train stopped on the tracks and all the passengers had to get off and walk near the area where the hippopotamus’s and baboons were.

Who knows you the best? My daughter.

What would you do if you won the lottery? I would claim the prize anonymously if the winning state has that option. I’d donate to various foundations and organizations. Invest in a business opportunity I have been looking into, share with family, and set up accounts for my grandson’s future.

Thank you, SARPC!

TARCOG appreciates the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission (SARPC) team who came from Mobile today to share an outreach training program for Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) to better serve residents in DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, Madison and Marshall counties.

The overall goals of the training were to assist TARCOG staff:

  • Increase participation of older adults in SNAP through community-based outreach and enrollment initiatives.
  • Identify, analyze, and disseminate replicable, cost effective, and scalable strategies for senior SNAP enrollment.
  • Increase public awareness of senior hunger as an issue of national and local importance, and of SNAP as an effective strategy for reducing food insecurity among older adults.

Julie McGee, director of the SARPC-AAA provided a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Outreach Project Overview with a focus on economic security and senior hunger initiatives.

Nancy Bledsoe, outreach coordinator of the SARPC-SNAP Outreach discussed SNAP Program goals, updates, reporting and community outreach activities, while James Roberson, the regional coordinator for SARPC’s State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), Senior Medicare Patrol and Senior Rx programs presented training on the importance and benefits of having a strong working relationship between the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) and SHIP program.

Barbara Estes, public relations specialist with SARPC also delivered marketing guidance for the programs.

Participating in the training from TARCOG included: LeQuitta Gaskin, outreach manager, Amanda Randall, coordinator of the ADRC, Pamela Cratic, specialist with the ADRC, Jalyn Powell, specialist with the ADRC, Teresa Hazzard, resource specialist with SHIP program, and Lina Barnett, coordinator with the Senior RX program.

TARCOG Makes Community Connections

John Sanders, director of TARCOG’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), was on a panel of speakers discussing Workforce Development at the monthly meeting of the Elm Foundation.

TARCOG appreciates the opportunity to share information about job training opportunities for those 55 and older at this morning’s Community Connections meeting held at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library in downtown Huntsville.

John Sanders, director of TARCOG’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), was on a panel of speakers discussing Workforce Development at the monthly meeting of The Elm Foundation.

Other panelists included Beth Zinn, program manager of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce’s Driving Possibilities; Candace Williams, program director of North AlabamaWorks; and Douglas Brazier, business developer at Calhoun Community College.

Sanders explained how SCSEP promotes personal dignity and self-sufficiency through work. The training attained through SCSEP provides in-demand skills for older, unemployed, low-income Americans when they are returning to the workforce.
He said SCSEP is a cornerstone program of the Older Americans Act and the only federal job training program targeted exclusively to low-income, older jobseekers.
The Community Connection Meetings are topic-focused and held each month as on opportunity to share resources, information, and professional development. Attendees include nonprofit agencies, civic, faith and corporate partners. The group meets on the second Thursday of each month at 9:00 a.m., at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library on Monroe Street.
The May 8th Community Connections meeting will focus on Community Financial Stability Programs in the area.
For more information on the senior employment program, contact John Sanders, at or 256-830-0818.

Grant facilitates the completion of The BEAT Center in Fort Payne

TARCOG was proud to be in attendance as Gov. Kay Ivey visited Fort Payne City Schools on Monday, April 8, for the ribbon cutting at the new BEAT Center, a STEM-focused vocational building to provide students with career specific training in three pathways: construction, electric vehicles, and aviation/drone technology
“Fort Payne Schools are trendsetters for career ready education integrated in the local curriculum … so that students have a job by the time they earn their high school diploma,” the governor said. “The range and depth of career tech instruction already offered in the Fort Payne system is quite frankly unrivaled for a system of this size.”
Ivey authorized $1 million in funding through the Appalachian Regional Commission Southern Appalachian Automotive Worker grant for the BEAT Center. TARCOG assisted with the grant application process and post award grant administration.
This morning, a standing room only crowd of public officials, community partners and educators packed the vocational center’s Aviation Technology Room to celebrate the new facility, which fits right in with the governor’s vision for Alabama.
“Since I’ve been governor, we’ve seen business investments of $49 billion, that’s with a B, and we’ve created some 87,000 new jobs,” Ivey said. “We’ve got the momentum, and thanks to vision of Fort Payne School leaders, backed by state and local funding, we are preparing for the Alabama workforce and the economy of the tomorrow, one student at a time.”
The Building, Electric, and Aviation Technology (BEAT) Center will consist of one classroom setting with three simulated workplace bays to house the Building/Construction, Electric Automotive, and Aviation Technology programs. Innovative simulated curriculum programs will be used in each vocational career pathway ensuring that students graduating from each program will be credentialed and capable of being employed in their chosen field.
After the ceremony, Lee Terry, director of TARCOG’s Economic Development and Planning said TARCOG is proud to see the completion of such a wonderful project for Fort Payne City Schools and the students who will benefit from the high quality educational opportunities offered by the BEAT Center.
“We are always happy to assist our member governments with such meaningful projects that will have a lasting impact on our communities,” Terry said.