Chatham COA recruiting ‘community ambassadors’

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 6/7/19

Littered throughout the list of goals in the Chatham County Aging Plan for 2018-2023 is the idea of awareness.

“Overarching goals” include the idea of “promot(ing) awareness among older …

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Chatham COA recruiting ‘community ambassadors’

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Littered throughout the list of goals in the Chatham County Aging Plan for 2018-2023 is the idea of awareness.

“Overarching goals” include the idea of “promot(ing) awareness among older adults, their families, and service providers of services available to older adults and their caregivers,” as well as “promot(ing) prominent consideration of the interests of older adults among public officials.”

The Chatham Council on Aging is putting a team in place to help accomplish those goals.

The agency is currently establishing a group of volunteer Community Ambassadors whose aim, according to COA Executive Director Dennis Streets, is to “serve as local connections for our Council on Aging and our community partners.”

“We recognize still in Chatham that we’re such a large and still largely rural county,” Streets said. “So much of what takes place is still word of mouth. It is hard to sometimes reach the entire county. There’s certainly a lot of our older population that is not connected to the Internet. It is still hard to try to connect with, reach out to everyone and inform them.”

According to the Aging Plan, 32 percent of Chatham’s population in 2016 was 60 years old or older, and the percentage is expected to rise to 41 percent by 2036. To help reach that rapidly-growing group with information about services and connect different agencies and organizations to them, the Ambassadors program was started, with the help of summer intern Bria Berry.

Berry, a graduate student at the UNC School of Public Health, said the group, which will feature 15 people, is seeking “people who enjoy volunteering and enjoy caring about the older population in Chatham and the community in general, serving their community, working with others.”

Streets said the COA hopes to have the first group of Ambassadors in place by the end of the summer, after which there would be eight training sessions lasting 4-5 hours each day. That training will include field experience to help prepare.

Once trained, Community Ambassadors would be working as part of a “two-way street,” Streets said. Not only would they be helping elderly adults get connected to needed services, the Ambassadors would also gather information to help community organizations serve that population better. For example, he said, the group could work with the Chatham County Public Health Department to raise awareness and answer questions about vaccines.

“There’s an effort to try to reach as many folks with the flu vaccine or the pneumonia vaccine, and yet some people may not have access to it,” he said. “Some people may be worried that if they get it, they’ll get the flu. With the Ambassadors, it would be a two-way street, in that we would hope to be able to use these Ambassadors to learn why people are not accessing the vaccine at a higher rate. And then if there are some myths about that, maybe help us dispel that myth.”

The COA would then use that information to improve services and, Streets said, maybe trickle awareness about resources to the younger crowd.

“I think it’s a tool that we would use for reaching and informing ourselves about people’s interests and needs, with a focus on seniors,” he said, “but hopefully a spillover to informing other generations.”

If you’re interested in being a part of the COA’s Community Ambassadors, reach out to Berry at to begin the application process. Ambassadors would need to have Internet access and transportation capabilities. Streets said the agency would also like representatives from different parts of the county and different subgroups, like farmers or the Hispanic/Latinx population.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.


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