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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.

April 2024 TARCOG Employee of the Month

Stephanie Jackson

Name: Stephanie R. Jackson

Title: Administrative Assistant

How long have you been at TARCOG and what do you do?  I’ve been with TARCOG for 22 years, my official work anniversary is in April.

I provide administrative support to the Legal Assistance Program, Elder Law Attorney, LaTanya Rhines, and the Ombudsman Program, Lead Ombudsman Representative, Alicia Howard, and LTC Ombudsman Representative, Vernel Mitchell.  Both the Legal Assistance Program and the Ombudsman Program has expanded their growth in the over twenty years that I’ve been with TARCOG, due to baby boomers and the population growth of new businesses to our five-county region.

I receive all calls for the Legal Assistance Program and attempt to return calls within 48 – 72 hours, depending on the volume of calls.  I schedule all appointments for Madison County new clients seeking legal assistance and refer clients from our outlying counties to their county of residence to schedule the next available appointment.  I schedule appointments for Madison County clients to notarize their approved final documents or prepare the final documents to be mailed to the clients for outside execution.  I generate a monthly email to DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, and Marshall County requesting the current appointment list for the month, I review the lists and prepare any final documents needed for clients that are ready to execute their documents.

I serve as a default contact for the Ombudsman Program if a concerned resident, family member, or staff, have questions for the Ombudsman Representatives.  I generate an email to the social workers in our 26 nursing facilities for the Monthly Gateway to Community Living Facility Referral Report that I calculate and submit to the State Ombudsman Office.  I serve as the secretary for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Culture Change Task Force Advisory Council, recording and preparing minutes, generating emails to Advisory Council members on upcoming meeting dates or other requests made by Alicia, the chairperson.

As an administrative assistant, I serve as backup to the receptionists, as needed.  As a TARCOG team member, I offer my assistance as needed to all programs.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  A guitar player in an all-girls band!!

What do you hope to accomplish within the next year?  On a personal note, my sister and I hope to have my mother settled here in Huntsville as her caregivers.

Who is your hero and why?  My husband, Terence Jackson.  My husband has provided support to my family over the thirty-one (31) years of our marriage, quietly behind the scenes.  Making travel possible for my mother to be with her daughter and son during their time of medical emergencies and strength during their passing. His selfless love, devotion, and commitment is what makes a real hero.

If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be?  Have a day at the beach, soaking up the sun, listening to the waves, eating some real good seafood, watching the sunset, and then the sunrise the next morning.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you? Your character and moral values represent who you are as a person, not what you do for a living.

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done? Rode one of those sky lifts in Gatlinburg, Tenn.  I prayed to God that if he allowed me to get down safely, I would never get on one of those things again. He did and I haven’t!!

Who knows you the best?  My best friend, my husband, Terence.

What would you do if you won the lottery?  I would make a financial blessing to my mother, my church, and ALS of GA in memory of my sister.  I would hire an investment advisor and setup full four-year college scholarships for my two grandchildren.  Take me and my husband on a long overdue quiet vacation for just the two of us!!  Make repairs to my home and put the rest in my rainy-day fund account.

Get Ready to Celebrate Seniors in May!!

CELEBRATE — Older Americans Month in May

Think back to 1980 — or the many celebrations since that year when you may have heard Kool and the Gang singing, “Celebrate good times, come on,” and you will have an idea of what’s in store for the upcoming 2024 Senior Fun Fest.

It’s going to be a party to remember for up to 2,000 seniors celebrating Older Americans Month, which is recognized in May. Fun Fest is sponsored by TARCOG and the Madison County Commission, with ticket sales and other local businesses also providing financial support to offset costs.


Tickets are now on sale, said TARCOG’s Director of Aging Programs Sheila Dessau-Ivey, It will be the 37th annual event held May 14, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Sharon Johnston Park, 783 Coleman Road in New Market. The rain date will be Thursday, May 16.

Advance tickets are $5. This year, an advance ticket and T-shirt bundle is available for $15. Advance tickets may be purchased at any Senior Center in DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, Madison and Marshall counties, or, at the TARCOG Office at 7037 Old Madison Pike, Suite 450, in Huntsville. Advance ticket pricing ends Friday, April 12. For more information call TARCOG at 830-0818.

Tickets may also be purchased after April 12 or at the gate on the day of the event for $7. T-shirts at the gate will be $13.

TARCOG Region Together Again

This year will be the first time since 2019, before COVID, that seniors from all the region’s counties will gather in one place to celebrate their month.

“We are so excited to see things getting back to normal,” Sheila said “During the past three years we were forced to do things differently, like holding individual Older Americans Month celebrations in each county. Since I’m relatively new to TARCOG, I’m excited to see seniors from DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, Madison and Marshall counties get together in one place to celebrate their lives, achievements and their lively spirits.”

She said the Senior Fun Fest Committee began meeting in January to plan this year’s event, which will be focused on celebrating good times with a Mardi Gras theme.

What happens at Fun Fest?

A pre-event Tai Chi session will take place from 9:30 to 10 a.m. where participants may join in to loosen up before the festivities begin, said Emmitt Davis, this year’s Senior Fun Fest coordinator.

After a short welcome ceremony at 10 a.m., activities will include BINGO, a photo booth, with music by DJ Jammin Jeff and live music provided by:

  • Hard on the Chickens Band
  • Tina Turner Group
  • Jimmy Ray’s Slap Happy Hayride

A Masters Games competition will be held for Corn Hole, the Nerf Ball Throw and Frisbee Throw, Emmitt added.

Those attending with tickets will enjoy a boxed lunch, Emmitt said. And snacks like popcorn and snow cones also available throughout the event. There will also be door prizes given out, he added.

“This is always a fun event, and we can’t wait to be there at Sharon Johnston Park and celebrate, truly celebrate all of our amazing TARCOG region seniors,” Emmitt said. “Our staff is hard at work putting all of the details in place so that it’s a special day to remember.”

More information is available by calling 256-830-0818.

TARCOG Employee of the Month — March 2024

Jeanne Hayes

Name: Jeanne Hayes

 Title: Medicaid Waiver Case Manager

How long have you been at TARCOG and what do you do? One year. I ensure services are provided for participants to reside in their home near family and friends — and try to prevent long-term placement.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Something in the healthcare field.

What do you hope to accomplish within the next year? Visit my daughter who lives in Hawaii and pursue my graduate degree.

Who is your hero and why? My mother. She made it all look easy.

If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? Volunteer to help with the floats for the Rose Bowl Parade. All flowers and plants are attached to the float the week leading up to the parade.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you? Yes. You can.

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done? Monthly — drive up and down the mountain in Jackson County.

Who knows you the best? My husband.

What would you do if you won the lottery? 1) Debts 2) Donate 3) Save 4) Share

Finance Director Gerald Carter, featured conference speaker

Gerald Carter speaking at SERDI Conference

TARCOG’s Finance Director Gerald Carter was a featured panelist at a regional conference designed to take a deep dive on financial training in early February.

Carter, who has been with TARCOG since 2010, starting as a payables clerk before advancing to positions in payroll, and as an accounting assistant. He became the agency’s Finance Director in 2015.

At the Southeast Regional Directors Institute’s 2024 Fly-In held in Greenville S.C., Carter served on a panel with Michelle Allen, executive director, Kentucky River Area Development District in Kentucky, and Dan van Doornik, director of Finance for PlanRVA, which is the greater Richmond, Virginia, region.

Together, the panelists presented “Dear Diary:  What Finance Directors WANT Executive Directors to understand about their positions and responsibilities.”

“It’s a great topic and conversation starter, especially for executive directors who may be new to their position,” Carter said.

During the presentation, the panel discussed the Top 3 Things they believed are important like:

  1. Tone from the top matters: Professional Trust and Respect are Important.
  2. There is Purpose in the Processes and Procedures
  3. Understanding the Value and Responsibility of the Finance Department

Carter said the theme went along well with the overall conference developed to highlight Industry trends, best practices and continued development of financial leadership for regional councils and development districts in the SERDI region.

At TARCOG, Carter oversees all aspects of the company’s financials; as well as, building operations and fleet management.  He is a graduate of the University of North Alabama with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting.

SHIP saving TARCOG Seniors >$2.5 million

There are 2,749 people in the TARCOG region collectively saving more than $2.5 million this year on their Medicare insurance premiums thanks to the Alabama State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

“This program is especially important because seniors have the opportunity to get their medicine free or at a cheaper rate than they might otherwise have to pay for it,” said TARCOG SHIP Resource Specialist Teresa Hazzard. “The SHIP program provides seniors with hope. Hope that they can afford medicine and still be able to get groceries and other household items with the extra monies that the SHIP program has allowed them to save.”

Open Enrollment for Medicare programs that are in place this year began last year on Oct. 15, and ended on Dec. 7. The TARCOG team responsible for answering questions and helping all TARCOG clients includes:

  • Teresa, who works out of TARCOG’s headquarters in Huntsville, and Kathryn Kestner from Studio 60 Senior Center in Huntsville in Madison County.
  • Veronica Woodall in Jackson County; Lynn Hixon and Emily McCamy in DeKalb County.
  • Tammy McElroy, Susan Bishop and Kennedy Cooper in Marshall County.
  • Carla Sims, Helen Carter and Madison Herron in Limestone County.

The specialists are responsible for answering questions and helping all TARCOG clients in their respective counties. They are also among the certified counselors and volunteers throughout the state who are committed to helping Medicare beneficiaries make informed choices regarding health benefits at no charge to Medicare recipients.

Together, the TARCOG team met or talked with 2,749 seniors during the 2023 Open Enrollment period. The total savings for those clients during 2024 will amount to $2,558,151.58.

SHIP counselors and volunteers are committed to helping participants make informed choices regarding health insurance benefits and options for ages 65 and older. One of the biggest areas of concern for seniors is finding the Medicare prescription drug plan best fits their needs. Teresa said it often changes from year to year, depending on the medications a person is taking.

“I love what I do because the joy in the voices of the seniors when they are told that their medicine will be free or greatly reduced is priceless,” Teresa said. “The savings allows our clients to be able to pay other bills as well as purchase food.”

Additionally, clients were counseled with information that would allow them to make decisions regarding their Medicare in the future.

What’s important to know about the Alabama SHIP program through TARCOG, is that the counselors are not affiliated with an insurance company and will not attempt to sell insurance to Medicare beneficiaries, like the places consumers call in response to TV commercials featuring famous people like Joe Namath, Jimmy “JJ” Walker, William Shatner, and George Foreman.

February 2024 Employee of the Month


Name: Phoenicia “Phoenix” Robinson

Title: Principal Planner, Economic Development and Planning

How long have you been at TARCOG and what do you do? It will be four years in April.

What did you want to be when you grew up? As a kid, I wanted to be a veterinarian because my mom worked with animals for the first 16 years of my life as a veterinarian technician. In high school, I discovered a love for architecture and decided to pursue that.

What do you hope to accomplish within the next year? I will obtain my certification with the American Planning Association; complete half if not 75 percent of the projects on my plate; and travel to a least one place on my bucket list this year, Canada.

Who is your hero and why? My hero is anyone that gets up and chooses to seize the day — in whatever capacity. This takes courage and not everyone makes that choice. I’d also like to give a special shout out to my team. It’s a pleasure to serve with these folks every day, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank them for being who they are.

If you could choose to do anything for a day, what would it be? I would spend the day exploring temples across Kyoto, Japan. The architecture nerd in me would be very happy.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you? Learn how to rest. This is a lesson I am definitely still learning.

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done? Start a new job in an unfamiliar city during the height of a pandemic.

TARCOG staff rescues, rehomes lost cat

Rem gets pets from Max

Meet Rem. He was a lost gray cat with yellow eyes and fangs who now has a new home thanks to TARCOG coworkers Leslie Wright and Max Woods.

Leslie, an economic development specialist, was leaving the TARCOG office one evening when she saw a dark-colored animal out of the corner of her eye.

“I was startled because I thought it was a big possum at first,” she said. “But then I saw it was a cat instead.”

Leslie, who has an orange tabby named Chairman Meow that only answers to “Kitty,” walked over and started talking to it. The cat responded positively, she said. “It was meowing and not running away so I was trying to get it to come to me.”

About that time, another coworker, Max Woods, a Medicaid Waiver case manager, came outside. Max remembers seeing a couple of coworkers standing in the middle of the parking lot and Leslie crouched down by her car.

“Then I saw the cat,” Max said. “I subconsciously knew that if I went and petted it, I would probably end up taking it home.”

The cat was skittish of any small movement at first, but trust came quick.

“It was very clear this was someone’s pet who got out,” Max said. “I realized I had a collapsible crate in my car that I use for groceries so once he trusted me enough, I picked him up and slowly started walking to my car. He got startled by something and leaped out of my arms, running towards the office building,” Max said. “But after a few minutes I was able to pick him again and walk to the car.”

Leslie Wright, Rem’s photo on the phone, and Max Woods standing near the tree where the cat was found

Leslie helped open the car and they put the cat in the crate.

“Then I realized there was no top for the crate, but I had a blanket in the car, so we wrapped it over the top and tucked it under the crate to make sure he stayed in while I was driving home,” Max recalled.

By the loud meowing, it was obvious the cat wasn’t too happy about being in the crate. But Max said surprisingly the cat settled down and they got home without any incidents. After food and water, Max introduced the cat to their mother and slowly to his other cats, Andy and Luna. Then Max started posting online “everywhere” about finding the cat. The next day, Max’s mom took the cat to the vet to find out he was 1-2 years old, not chipped nor neutered.

“We added that to the online posts, but the description did not match for any of the people who reached out looking for their missing cat,” Max said.

On the fourth night, Max fell asleep with the window open. The new cat scratched a hole in the screen and disappeared.

“We went around the neighborhood, posted ads online, and went to the shelter to no avail,” Max said. He read online that if you leave the point of exit open a cat will return. It worked. Max woke up to see “Rem was laying there like nothing ever happened.”

Max then ordered tracking tags for all three cats and has kept the window shut. By the end of two weeks, Max figured no one would come to claim the cat so he chose a new name. Because of the bright yellow eyes and fangs, Max landed on Rem, a character from an animation show with similar looks.

“The character is honestly pretty creepy looking, but she has yellow eyes and fangs just like his, and the name just fit him so well.”

The addition of Rem to Max’s other cats Andy and Luna helped mitigate the dynamic between the other two cats.

“Anytime Rem leaves my bedroom, Andy follows directly behind him and acts like an older brother being made to babysit his younger brother. They fight sometimes, but then right after they will be bumping noses and laying a foot away from each other,” Max said. “Luna has been doing very well since Rem got here, actually she’s better than before because Andy used to chase her so she would hide a lot. Now that Andy’s focused on Rem, Luna is now comfortable sitting wherever she pleases.”

Every day, the TARCOG staff helps people in various ways — whether it’s aging related, strengthening the economy or community planning. This time, the caring nature of the team extended to a lost cat finding a happy ending with Max as his new owner.

“Every time I pet him, Rem looks up at me and smiles so that his little fangs show,” Max said. “It’s the cutest thing in the world!”