The Osceola County Council on Aging is going through a transition at the top this summer and fall, with the retirement of its longtime CEO, Beverly Hougland.
Although, can you really call it “retirement” if she’s still around all the time?
The question is in jest, but the agency, which helps and assists nearly one in three Osceola County residents on a daily basis with housing, food and transportation, and so much more, has a new leader, but the vision remains the same. End senior hunger, and serve all generations in Osceola County. That was shared at their recent annual breakfast fundraiser.
Wendy Ford, who’s already logged more than two decades with the Council on Aging, presided over its annual fundraiser breakfast for the first time Friday. In front of a full room of donors, as usual, the message changed little since Hougland stepped down from the day-to-day role: that with the community’s continued help, the Council on Aging will not miss a beat.
“I’m excited about how the community is behind us,” Ford said. “We’re asking for the community to stand behind us during this time of transition.”
The Council had humble beginnings, starting out in a room at the old county courthouse, then moving to a transport depot-slash vehicle inspection behind. By 2007, it had enough local support to build its current 41,000 square foot facility.
Ford’s beginnings with the Council are also humble. She got involved by getting close to Hougland — very close. She was Beverly’s hairdresser, and was moved to start her own mission to work with those who needed assistance in the community.
The Council is a powerhouse organization now with nearly three dozen community programs. Senior citizen-focused one like Meals on Wheels and adult day care are the most known, but the nonprofit offers help to generations with utility assistance and a medical clinic for uninsured low-income residents.
They help they can provide is fueled by the help from the community and local government, and Ford put it simply on Friday: there’s never enough.
“As soon as we raise money, it’s spent. As soon as we stock the food pantry, it’s gone,” she said. “There’s never enough to help everybody that needs it. We have a waiting list for every service we offer.”
As an example, the wait list for housing assistance now stands at 400. Ford said the Council’s mission will not change from Hoagland’s long leadership term, and will still follow her predecessor’s vision. Ford hopes to do some things that can drive more revenue, like using the facility’s meeting space for more catered events, and the schedule for that is booking up fairly well, she said.
“It was God’s plan for me to be here,” Ford said. “And now it’s my purpose to continue this legacy.”