At Senior Centers 2016 in Philadelphia, Rick Eldridge, executive director of Rufty-Holmes Senior Center in Salisbury, was presented with the 2016 National Institute of Senior Centers Founders Award for outstanding service to the senior center community.
Eldridge has been the center’s only director since its founding in 1987 and has led his center through four national accreditations. He gives back to the senior center community by serving as a national accreditation peer reviewer and as a member of the Accreditation Board.
Senior Centers 2016 was held Sept. 26-28 at the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging.
This is what Eldridge said when he received the Founders Award:
“It’s certainly an honor to be recognized by NISC with the Founders Award. I’m not sure who nominated me for this award, or who selected me; but it’s humbling to be included in the group of senior center professionals who have been recognized with this award in the past. There are some great individuals involved in our network, many of whom I’m sure are more deserving of this award than me.
“Like a lot of you, I suspect, when I became a senior center director 29 years ago, I had little to go on in terms of knowing how to run a senior center. In my case, I was hired to open and run a brand new senior center in a community that had never had a senior center. How was I to know if we were doing the right things, and doing them well?
“Soon after being hired, I visited other senior centers and learned about an organization called the National Institute of Senior Centers (NISC). I learned how this organization is the only national organization dedicated to senior centers and senior center professionals; and that there were national standards in place that covered virtually every aspect of senior center operations.
“Wow! What a God-send, I remember thinking.
“I quickly had our center to join, and we’ve been members every year since. I obtained the national standards and patterned our operation from its beginnings based on these blueprints.
“Due to this, we quickly became one of the leading centers in our state and were chosen in 1999 to pilot North Carolina’s state certification program — becoming North Carolina’s first Senior Center of Excellence.
“Two years later we sought accreditation from NISC, and hope to be accredited for the fourth time in just a few weeks.
“I’ve tried to give back to the organization by serving on the Delegate Council, co-chairing the State Associations Committee, being a standards trainer and accreditation reviewer, serving on the Accreditation Board and promoting NISC in my home state.
“However, the organization certainly has done more for me and our center than I could ever do in return.
“The strength of our organization and senior center network is that we help each other by sharing our successes and approaches to common challenges. We celebrate when one of our colleagues can benefit from our experience. I encourage other centers to copy things we do, often saying that plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery. I remind them that more often than not, we have copied those ideas and programs from other centers and adapted them to work for us.
“Senior centers are unique in what we do. And if you watch people come and go each day, you realize how important centers have become to our older adult citizens.
“NISC offers us the opportunity to be better at what we do, and to work together to bring resources to our cause. I hope you value your association with this organization, and will continue to support and grow it into the future.
“I encourage you, at whatever stage you are in your center, to keep moving forward. When I do on-site accreditation reviews, I usually share my favorite Will Rogers quote: ‘Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.'”