Denise Niese, executive director of the Wood County Committee on Aging, received the Star Award from National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP) at the organization’s annual conference held recently in San Diego.
For more than two decades, NANASP has recognized individuals for their outstanding contributions to older Americans. The award acknowledges outstanding achievements by NANASP members and individuals who help the association further its vision to reshape the future of nutrition and healthy aging and mission to strengthen through advocacy and education those who help older Americans.
Early in Niese’s career with WCCOA, it was noted that the current kitchen was at capacity. With baby boomers aging and a higher projected need for senior centers and home-delivered meals throughout Wood County, Niese jumped on board to help secure funding to build a new stand-alone production kitchen. The kitchen, which opened in January 2007, has prepared more than one million hot, nutritious meals for older adults who may not have been able to receive these services otherwise.
A few years later, she saw a need for Saturday meals. Niese began giving up her Saturdays once a month to serve older adults who were able to come for meals at the Wood County Senior Center. Even on Thanksgiving Day, Niese was in the kitchen preparing 100 meals for her extended “family”— from roasting turkey, to peeling potatoes, to making salad.
Nutrition service providers play a vital role in improving the lives of older Americans daily through nutrition sites, such as WCCOA’s seven senior centers and it daily home delivered meals; which might be the only social contact the senior has during the day.
As executive director of WCCOA, Niese is an advocate for older adults, supporter of colleagues, and mentor to co-workers. She is a board member of the Ohio Association of Senior Centers (OASC) and serves on the National Institute of Senior Centers’ (NISC) Accreditation Review Board.
As the nomination form noted, not a day goes by that Niese isn’t living the words of the agency’s mission statement – “to provide older adults with services and programs which empower them to remain independent and improve the quality of their lives.”
According to NANASP, nutrition service providers play a vital role in improving the lives of older Americans daily – whether it is through nutrition sites, such as exercise classes, health screenings, podiatry care, social worker assistance, tax services, and/or social activities.