Ashe Services for Aging’s retiring executive director, Jane Banks, has been presented with North Carolina’s highest civilian award, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
Banks was surprised with the prestigious award Friday evening during a reception in her honor. The award was presented by Dana Tugman, chairman of the Ashe Services for Aging Board of Directors.
“This award represents the best of what you are and what you do, and always have been,” said Tugman with a catch in his voice as he praised Banks for her many years of dedicated leadership for the organization. “It is an extremely remarkable duty, privilege and pleasure I have to present you with The Order of the Long Leaf Pine.”
Banks also fought back tears as she accepted the award, giving the credit to her board and staff at ASA.
“I am honored to be a part of this organization. You are the ones who made me look good,” she said. “Thank you so much.”
Banks was also honored with a print of her choice – ‘Over the Hill’ by Phillip Philbeck – to be framed and hung at Ashe Assisted Living & Memory Care, a facility she fought hard to establish on the ASA campus.
The print shows a farm under a blanket of snow and lit by the glow of sunset and lighted windows. The trees sparkle with ice-covered branches. “I chose it because it reminds me of Ashe County,” said Banks.
Underneath the framed print will be a plaque that reads: “With sincere gratitude to Jane Banks for visionary leadership, unrelenting perseverance and determined commitment to all endeavors of Ashe Services for Aging.” It is followed by a quote from Warren Bennis that reads: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
Banks has certainly done that with the establishment of Ashe Assisted Living & Memory Care last year, her most proud accomplishment.
Ashe Assisted Living and Memory Care is 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 when the facility opened. “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.”
After 15 years as head of the county’s “model of excellence” in senior services programs, Banks will step down at the end of this month.
She 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. She had spent 12 years on ASA’s board of directors and 27 years with the Department of Social Services.
As she retires, Banks said she is looking forward to spending more time with her husband, John, their children and grandchildren.
“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.”