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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

PF Senior Center honored by national group

Robin Heflin Correspondent

The Post Falls Senior Center recently achieved an honor few other senior centers can claim – it received national accreditation through the National Institute of Senior Centers, an arm of the National Council on Aging. The Post Falls organization is the only senior center to be accredited in Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Montana.

Of more than 12,000 senior centers in the United States, only 111 have received the five-year accreditation, said Dan Taylor, senior center accreditation coordinator for the National Institute of Senior Centers.

“The biggest thing for the community to realize is it’s one of few in the community that meets national standards,” Taylor said. Nine national standards to be exact. The standards cover governance, administration and human resources, facilities, purpose, community, evaluation, program planning, records and reports and fiscal management.

Sandra Miller, Post Falls Senior Center executive director, first got the idea to seek out accreditation.

“I had heard about being accredited,” Miller said. “I went on the Internet and I went, ‘Wow!’ My goal is to be one of the best senior centers there is in Idaho. This (accreditation) tells us we are the best. One of the best,” she said.

“It’s a validation that you are in the top echelon of senior centers,” Taylor said. He added that it makes people and organizations take notice – especially organizations that provide funding through grants. That’s good news for Post Falls Senior Center, which is self-supporting and receives very little government funding. The center is at 1215 E. Third Ave.

“Now that we’re accredited we can apply for more grants,” said Bob Wagnitz, chairman of the center’s accreditation committee.

Accreditation has “already improved the center. To meet the standards we had to rewrite bylaws, had to set up long-term formal planning … we had to write a detailed five-year plan that they approved of,” Wagnitz said.

Center representatives didn’t just jump into the accreditation process. Volunteers did a lot of research beforehand, calling other senior centers and traveling to New York and Mesa, Ariz., to talk with centers that gone through the accreditation process.

“We wanted to make sure it was worthwhile. We didn’t want to reinvent the wheel,” Wagnitz said.

In the course of its research, the Post Falls center discovered that many other centers hire professionals to help them through the process. The Post Falls Senior Center called upon volunteers from the library, school district, city, county, state, federal government and community agencies to provide needed expertise.

“What is really important is the interaction with the community. Only in America do people give freely of their money and their time,” Wagnitz said. “We couldn’t have done it without the community.”

The Post Falls Senior Center originally estimated it would take a year and half to make any needed changes to bring the center up to the national standards and prepare the necessary documentation. Instead, they finished in nine months.

Now that the center is accredited, it’s not going to rest on its laurels. There still are areas to improve upon and programs to implement. And there’s all those grants to apply for.

“The fact that we’re accredited, it doesn’t stop there. We have holes to fill and we need to be reaccredited in five years,” Wagnitz said.