Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe established the Senior Growth and Development Fund two years ago with a signing in Springfield. On Aug. 20, Kehoe was once again in the Queen City to honor senior volunteers for aiding in more than 70 COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
Kehoe said the fund, which supports services for Missouri’s seniors, has worked well.
The additional revenue source designates 10% of Missouri’s insurance premium tax for seniors, with coordination by Missouri’s Area Agencies on Aging. The state’s 2% insurance premium tax is passed to insurers on direct premiums they receive. Springfield’s SeniorAge Area Agency on Aging serves 10,000 square miles across 17 counties in southwest Missouri, according to its website.
Kehoe said COVID-19 dampened attendance at senior centers throughout the state, with many centers closing at the height of the pandemic.
“The demand for senior center services has not been as high with COVID,” he said. “We’re really just now seeing where that can have an effect.”
During his visit Friday, Kehoe honored the United Way of the Ozarks’ Give 5 program with a 2021 Senior Service Award. Give 5 aims to provide social connection for retirees by providing them with volunteer opportunities.
The Give 5 program was recognized for its assistance with vaccinations provided by the Jordan Valley Community Health Center. Give 5 volunteers assisted with 71 mobile clinics.
According to Greg Burris, president and CEO of United Way of the Ozarks, there are more than 200 graduates of the Give 5 program, and they provide, on average, 18 volunteer hours per month. Some 25-30 Give 5 volunteers helped with the COVID-19 vaccination effort.
Kehoe praised the volunteers and the program. “Quite frankly, the COVID crisis has brought people and communities together – especially in this case,” he said. One benefit? “We’ve all learned to smile with our eyes,” he said.
Kehoe said retirees are a valuable resource.
“The strength and the wisdom and being able to take that resource and put it back into communities … that’s a game-changer,” he said. “There’s a lot of really smart people out there that have gray hair and a little time on their hands.”
He offered particular appreciation to Give 5 coordinators Burris and Cora Scott, the city’s director of public information and civic engagement.
Kehoe also took a moment to advocate for COVID-19 vaccination, stating, “We also know we can get on the other side of this with vaccines.”
Kehoe signed the Senior Growth and Development Fund bill into law in June 2019 when Gov. Mike Parson was traveling out of the country. Kehoe announced in March that he intends to make his own bid for governor in 2024.
Since its 1999 debut, the awards program has honored individuals under the age of 40 for their professional and civic work.