Dee Anne Miller is no stranger to community service. After having served a little more than two years as a development specialist with the March of Dimes, she is now preparing to promote and ensure the well-being of the elderly in her new role as executive director of the Orangeburg County Council on Aging.
Miller started her new job on Dec. 26, replacing longtime executive director Sheryl Jeffcoat, who retired after a little more than 30 years of service.
The focus of the nonprofit OCCOA is to provide programs and services for county residents age 60 and older. Promoting their independence and daily function, along with providing them with social and physical activities is among the agency’s goals.
Miller said acquainting the community with the needs of its older citizens and the “jewel” that it has in the OCCOA is among her goals. She said she accepted her job for a reason.
“It’s absolutely a calling. The seniors are very appreciative, which just fills you up. I’m more or less talking about the people in the dining room that come here every day,” Miller said.
She added, “With all the things that are unknown in this position for me that I don’t have a comfort level with yet, I just keep going into the dining room and knowing that I’m doing the right thing.
“The clients that come here are so grateful to have this place to come to and to have the socialization. It feels me up every time I get a little discouraged.”
Group dining meals are among the services the OCCOA provides at four locations in the county, including Branchville, Vance and Springfield.
The OCCOA’s other services include homemaker services; assisting eligible residents with light housekeeping; shopping and routine household activities; service coordination; informing seniors about available resources and making appropriate referrals; and providing home-delivered meals Monday through Friday to a limited number of older area citizens.
An exercise program, including an hour-long group exercise class held on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, group tours and recreation programs such as arts and crafts, canasta and bingo are also offered through the OCCOA.
Miller said forming collaborative relationships within the community is among her goals to help the OCCOA thrive.
“It’s about working with volunteers and working with the community and the people that support us in the community. We would not be where we are today without those people,” Miller said.
The agency receives funding through the Older Americans Act as appropriated by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging, as well as through the Lower Savannah Area Agency on Aging, Orangeburg County, Edisto United Way and individual donors.
“We do have federal and state money, but we do rely on the community and the county to keep us functioning so we can serve our mission. There’s going to have to be help from other sources. I can’t get it all from one well. The big goal is to make sure that no one’s waiting for services,” she said.
OCCOA Assistant Director Lynn Huffstetler said, “We would love to be able to serve everybody on our waiting list, but a shortage of funding won’t allow us to.”
Miller said, “That hurts our whole team, to know that we have people waiting that want to be served, or need to be served. Our goal as a whole is to make sure that we’re doing everything on our part to keep that from happening.
“As far as me being able to go out into the community and get local community support, I feel that’s where our growth opportunity is. I don’t know if everybody knows what a jewel this place is and the great things that are happen here. I want to make sure that we’re giving back to Orangeburg and taking care of the seniors.”
She said she wants to spend time “screaming from the mountaintops” the valuable resource that the community has through hits local OCCOA. She said its Meals on Wheels program, for example, provides seniors with not only something to eat, but the social interaction that many may lack.
“It is helping these adults feel more comfortable staying in their homes, knowing that somebody’s coming every day. It reduces their loneliness and gives them a source of comfort. That’s why the home delivery meals are important and actually coming to the center itself gives seniors lots of benefits,” Miller said.
The Orangeburg resident and her husband, Rob, are the parents of three children.
“I grew up right here in Orangeburg. I’ve been part of this community, and I just have a love for it and the positive things that are happening,” she said.
OCCOA Board Chairman Tommy Ashley said, “We’re excited that Dee Anne was chosen as our new executive director. She has already hit the ground running, meeting the folks out in the county that serve the meals, with representatives of the Lower Savannah (Council of Governments).
"It’s energetic leadership. I think that the Orangeburg County Council on Aging is the best kept secret because of all the things that we do. One thing we would like is to bring more exposure to the programs that we offer to our senior citizens.”
Jeffcoat said, “She is going to do a beautiful job. I have no doubt. I just hope to see it (OCCOA) keep on growing by leaps and bounds and just keep helping people. That’s what it’s all about. They have a wonderful staff there.”
Miller said, “I think we need to grow into smaller communities where there’s a need so that people that are not close by are able to get the same services and same kind of community support in the smaller towns.
“We’re in Branchville and Vance now, but I think that there are plenty of smaller communities that could certainly benefit from our offerings.”
Individuals seeking volunteer or other opportunities at the OCCOA, or any civic group wanting Miller to come speak about the OCCOA and what is done there, can contact the executive director by phone at 803-531-4663 or email at email@example.com.