After 15 years as head of the county’s “model of excellence” in senior services programs, Executive Director Jane Banks will step down in September.
Banks began her post with Ashe Services for Aging in1997 not long after staff moved into the current facility off Ray Taylor Road in West Jefferson. ASA was without a director for a few months when Mannon Eldreth retired in June 1996, then Banks took the job the following March. She had spent 12 years on ASA’s board of directors and 27 years with the Department of Social Services, so taking over as executive director was a natural fit.
With DSS from 1970 to 1997, Banks performed various duties including eligibility for Medicaid and food stamps, and social worker in adult services since 1983, leaving as supervisor of the program.
“That was a wonderful experience,” said Banks, “starting at the bottom and working up to supervisor. It was a great career.”
When she came to ASA, Banks began establishing programs that have since earned the agency praise and recognition from the state.
“The first thing we did after I got here was open the intergenerational day care,” Banks said. “This was something the board and Mannon wanted to do.”
This day care program brings together two generations, senior citizens and children, and the two groups often interact with the other clients of ASA and the community.
“The next thing we did was the HUD apartments for seniors, which is just so phenomenal,” Banks said. “We have 24 units, and they are very popular and successful.” She said Ashe Senior Village opened in 2001 and is usually full.
Both day care programs have been expanded as participation grew, and the building was enlarged in accommodation.
“We provided space, but not nearly enough,” as it turned out in the beginning, said Banks. “We average 42 children and 25 adults each day. And this is not just day care for the children; it is a developmental program for them.”
The intergenerational day care, said Banks, “is a great compliment to the senior center and a great service to the community.”
With these programs and many others in place, Ashe Services for Aging became the first senior center in the state to be certified a Center of Excellence.
“And we couldn’t have done that without community support,” said Banks. That support has helped the center earn this recognition several more times, and Banks said officials from the state recognize ASA for being a model center and offer praise when visiting.
“The state visitors when they come here say ASA is a model program and they send people to see and learn from us,” she said. “We always need to look forward and see what the next wave of seniors need and are interested in, and offer that. Otherwise, they won’t come.”
And while she is proud of what ASA has accomplished over its many years of service to the community’s senior population, Banks is most proud of the newest addition – Ashe Assisted Living and Memory Care, an assisted living center located on the hill just above and behind the senior center and boasting the county’s first secure unit specifically for Alzheimer’s and dementia residents.
“Assisted living and memory care is a project I always wanted to do,” Banks said. “I am so proud we now have a facility for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It is not institutional looking, and there are activities the residents can do based on their abilities. Alzheimer’s is becoming more prevalent and people need special care. Our staff is specially trained. It’s been absolutely amazing. We have 24 beds, and 21 are filled.”
As she prepares for retirement at the end of September, Banks said she is looking forward to spending more time with her husband, John, children (three daughters) and grandchildren (two). She and John plan a little rest and relaxation by heading to the beach in October.
“I’ll have wonderful memories,” Banks said of her time with ASA. “We’ve accomplished so much and helped so many people. When I look back, they are rosy memories.
“There is a lot for Ashe County and the staff and community to be proud of with Ashe Services for Aging,” she said. “It has absolutely been a wonderful experience, the best of my life.”