Furman OLLI Senior Leaders Ask, “Now What Do I Do?”

When Steve Hazle retired from Jacobs Engineering three and half years ago, he knew he would remain active and get involved with something that really matters. The first step in this journey was to offer his expertise to Senior Action, where he assisted in the development of a volunteer database. While working there, he learned about the launch of a new program at Furman’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) – Senior Leaders Greenville. The concept intrigued him so he decided to apply.

Furman OLLI Senior Leaders Greenville is modeled after the Chamber’s Leadership Greenville program. The mission is to build awareness of the essential role of seniors in the community and the critical issues they face, empowering participants to become active players seeking better lives for seniors in Greenville, the Upstate and beyond.

Steve’s class had 27 participants who met over a series of months to explore key community issues such as housing, healthcare, and government. He was particularly interested in the presentation on transportation. As a substitute van driver for Senior Action he had seen some of the problems firsthand. “I would pick up folks in the Traveler’s Rest area to take them to Foothills Family Resources in Slater. It became obvious to me that a lot of seniors have no transportation and absolutely no access to transportation,” he shared.

Each Senior Leaders class included a variety of speakers who shared information and inspired participants to get involved. The program concluded with a session entitled, “Now What Do I Do?” The Honorable Chandra Dillard, a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and Furman’s Director of Community Relations was the keynote. She offered her perspective on public service and also shared information about the Silver Haired Legislature.

The South Carolina Silver Haired Legislature was created in 1999 by the South Carolina General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Hodges.  The group’s primary responsibilities are to identify issues, concerns and possible solutions for problems facing the aging population in South Carolina and to make recommendations to the Governor, General Assembly, and various Departments and Agencies on Aging.

Steve had already been exploring this legislative body and asked Representative Dillard many questions. He believed this was a way he could get involved and give back. Inspired by Representative Dillard, Steve, along with several of his Senior Leaders classmates, pursued this opportunity.  Five members of the inaugural class were elected to the Legislature and recently joined the 38-member Appalachian Caucus.

The caucus meets five times per year at the Appalachian Council on Governments. In addition, each year they join the other nine caucuses in Columbia. In May they attended an orientation and in September they will meet for three-days in the House of Representatives Chamber to finalize their resolutions. Two current priorities are the Senior Guardian Ad Litem program and funding for in-home and community-based services for seniors.

Steve is glad that he participated in the first class of Senior Leaders Greenville. “I met so many great and energetic people. And the large majority of my classmates have gotten involved with things that they were exposed to during the program. This spells success for the community and for each of us,” said Steve.

For more information about OLLI and the Senior Leaders Greenville program visit www.furman.edu/olli or call 864-294-2998. Applications are being accepted for Class II  now through July 1. Applicants must be 55 or older. The cost is $350 and scholarships are available.

Debbie Nelson

Debbie Nelson is the president and founder of DNA Creative Communications, a woman-owned public relations and inspirational marketing firm for nonprofit organizations. Under Debbie’s leadership, in 2010 DNA founded Shine the Light Nonprofit Forums, an annual training program for Greenville nonprofits in partnership with the Community Foundation of Greenville County, the United Way of Greenville County and the Hollingsworth Funds. To support other nonprofits across the state, she also manages education programs for the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organization. As an a advocate for the nonprofit community, each month Debbie shares nonprofit stories in her Shine the Light columns in the Greenville Business Magazine and the Columbia Business Monthly. In addition she teaches nonprofit marketing at Clemson University to inspire and develop future nonprofit leaders. Debbie is a graduate of Leadership Greenville, Leadership South Carolina and the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leadership Initiative. She currently serves on the boards of the Greenville Area Development Corporation, the South Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, the United Way of Greenville County and the United Way Association of South Carolina.

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