Louise Rall, founder of Golden Umbrella on her 98th birthday
Written by Louise Rall.
November 1968 – April 1980
The following are excerpts are from a book published by the Shasta Historical Society. For the complete publication of this book, please contact Golden Umbrella, 223-6034.
Dedicated to the volunteers, particularly to the Veeps (Volunteer Enrichment Elderly People) and especially to Grace Miller, the volunteer extraordinaire.
The phone rang, and rang, and rang. In the first month over 400 calls were received. This was in response to an article in the “Redding Record Searchlight” by John Lawson. It was an eye opener for many in Shasta County for it told about a Project Find Grant that had just been received by the Community Action Project (C.A.P.) to seek out the friendless, isolated, needy, and disabled senior citizens in Shasta County and implement action to help them. The calls were asking for information and help, and that was before the program was operational. I was hired as director (possibly because I had organized senior clubs in Burney when I was a Community Aide there). I had to find a project secretary and five half-time field workers. I chose Frances Markwick as project secretary.
The C.A.P. adopted us as family and gave us a room in their offices in the apartment building across from the Shasta County Library at 1304 West Street. They also supplied us with two desks, two secretary chairs, and a bench. A mimeograph machine I brought from the Burney Center completed our furnishings.
The classified ad in the “Record Searchlight” for the field workers brought forty applicants for the five openings. All staff members had to be at least fifty years of age and meet the low-income criteria. They were to work four hours a day.
The proposal for the program was prepared by E. Homer Edgecomb, who was acting as a consultant to the C.A.P. The proposal was granted in October 1968. November was spent hiring, training, and organizing. December found the trained and eager field workers (later changed to advocates) out in the biggest snow-storm in years. It was the year the roofs caved in on many businesses. An Advisory Committee had been recruited and consisted of five persons interested in seniors and their problems. This committee included representatives from Shasta County Welfare Department, Shasta County Health Department, State Department of Employment, and one very interested Senior citizen. Those on the first committee were: Marilyn Rasmussen, Ruth Cramblit, Dick Strandlund, and Homer Edgecomb as Chairman.
Project Find was conceived by Jack Ossafsky when the Office of Economic Opportunity gave the task of preparing a program for the elderly to the National Council on Aging. At that time there were only twelve pilot programs in the United States. Three were in the Western Region and they were Modesto, Tucson, and Honolulu. Redding made the fourth. These were to be one-year programs.
Our grant for the first year was for $34,046. The C.A.P. moved from 1304 West Street to 2704 Market Street in November 1969. Our program moved with them for they supplied our office space, bookkeeping, and leadership. Our new quarters were much larger, but it took Frances, her husband, her son, and myself a weekend of work and three coats of paint to make it ready to occupy. By this time the C.A.P. provided us with a manual typewriter. We furnished the two rooms with furniture and drapes that had been donated to a rummage sale. Frank Markham built bookcases to accommodate the Vista Library I brought from the Burney Center when it closed. We were happy in our new office. Ed Forbes, who was the Executive Director of the C.A.P. at that time, was very supportive of our program. He was excited and pleased with each of our accomplishments. He steered his board in giving us a delegate Agency status which meant we were on our own. We were to take care of our own funds and bookkeeping. Our programs were growing and the publicity we were receiving was making the community and local agencies aware that we were here, and here to stay.
It was not all easy going and people patting us on the back. One day Marian Babiarz, Executive Director of the Shasta County Welfare Department, called me and said that she would like a meeting with me and my staff, to help clear up some confusion as to what our role was in Shasta County. We were to meet in one of the courtrooms. Why such a large room? I found out when we arrived. I think the whole Welfare Department was there. Standing room only was the result. The seven of us were ushered to the front of the room and seated facing this unhappy crowd. As questions started coming we realized they thought we were trying to replace them, and that their jobs were in jeopardy, and that we were just using them. Their work had doubled since we came on the scene, and the Project Find Field workers demanded that their seniors have a hearing.
Well, they simmered down when it was explained we were more or less working under federal mandates and that we were actually doing the leg work, and they were getting the credit for it. I think we handled ourselves well and made a lot of friends. Now they knew why we were here.Another group, the Shasta County Senior Citizens, Inc., were wondering how Project Find fit in with their program. Their members were divided. Some thought we were against them and some thought we should merge. Several meetings were held, and it was decided that Project find would be designated as a service program, and that Shasta County Seniors Inc. be known as strictly a social and recreational organization. After that we did many things together.
In March, we moved from under C.A.P.’s roof and into our new home. John Lawson (Record Searchlight) so aptly put it, “Find Finally Finds a Fine Home.” We had our first “Open House” May 17, 1970, as the Golden Umbrella Center at 1134 Pine Street, a fifty-year old house with three bedrooms.
At that same time Project Find’s name was changed to Senior Opportunity and Services (S.O.S.) by the National Council on Aging, and we could receive future funding under that name. The National Council on Aging recommended that we receive future funding because of the outstanding results we had achieved with our Pilot Program, “Project Find.”
Before Project Find, only the Welfare Department was available for help and then seniors had to have transportation to get there. Project Find became a liaison in helping other county agencies by filling a needed gap. In the first year, the field workers made 3000 visits. In 1970 under the Organizing Chairman, Dr. William H Pike of the Shasta County Council on Aging, Planned Programs included Tele-Care, Tele-Ride, Gift Shop, Arts & Crafts, and Outreach. The Shasta County Council on Aging was disbanded after our three years with the state were completed in 1973. The Golden Umbrella had been incorporated and their board was in place. A Multi-Purpose Senior Center where seniors came together to fulfill many of their social, physical, and intellectual needs had its Grand Opening May 17, 1970. Over 500 visitors attended. The Golden Umbrella programs, through the center at 1134 Pine Street, served many over the years. We were there eight years and five months. The first year 7,063 registered, while eight years later 14,385 signed the register. We served 9,667 meals that year.There were 220 contributors to the gift shop by 1978. That same year the senior advocates were out making 6,087 calls on seniors, and the volunteers had made out 967 rent rebates and 175 property tax refunds.The Golden Umbrella, the grantee for the Foster Grandparent Program, counted 68 seniors serving in 18 schools, 8 day care centers, Head Start, and Mercy Pediatrics. From 1973 to 1980, one hundred fifteen seniors volunteered to serve.Programs were expanding and a new facility was located at the Village Plaza at 2381 Athens Avenue. The Grand Opening was held September 15 and 16, 1978 with 750 people stopping by to wish us well and congratulate us on our beautiful new center. By 1979 20,643 seniors registered, 9,938 meals served, and 9,058 gifts sold. Dozens of volunteers participated with donations of time, talents, money, or material.
The health of the Shasta County Senior was of prime concern to us. It was one of the problems to which the advocates gave their close attention. We had retired registered nurses who volunteered to take blood pressures. In the Fiscal Year 77/78 they took 900 blood pressures. When the first flu shots were first available the Shasta County Health Nurses came to the Golden Umbrella and 297 shots were given. The Golden Umbrella helped the Nutrition Program get started in Shasta County and also helped it expand. The Nutrition Program under Title VII of the Older American Act is a state funded program under the California Department on Aging. The Golden Umbrella participated in the Nutrition Program from March 1974 to January 1975 until Mercy Hospital became the grantee and sponsor. I guess you can say Our Daily Meals started on May 17, 1970 when we had the Center Grand Opening. It expanded after the years of the Nutrition Program and had served 9,938 meals in 1978.
Many people have helped to make Golden Umbrella what it is today. Today we are proud to be in our current facility at 200 Mercy Oaks Drive along with Shasta Senior Nutrition Program and Mercy Oaks Village apartments. Please stop by and visit our facility and become part of our history.