At age 60, Sandra Minton had retired as a traveling nurse.
She had been living in California and 12 years ago came to Florida to retire.
“But I stayed busy,” she said, doing home health care, private duty nursing, wound care.
Then her dog, a big mastiff/lab mix, accidentally fractured her back and, unable to work, she was idle for quite a while.
“I hate not being busy,” she said.
One day, she started attending the community center in Lecanto as a way to meet other people. And, as many of the regulars do, she started helping out.
The receptionist at the Central Citrus Community Center at the time had been a part of a federally funded program under the Department of Labor called The National Caucus and Center on Black Aging (NCBA).
The program at one time was called Green Thumb and then Experience Works. As NCBA, it’s still the same program, providing minimum wage payment for 20 hours per week to income-qualified people of any race or ethnicity age 55 and older while they acquire training from a nonprofit host agency that puts them to work.
It’s learning new skills or brushing up or relearning old skills while getting paid. The host agency provides the training and the NCBA provides the wages.
When the receptionist left for a full-time job, Minton started filling in as a volunteer and then as an NCBA participant.
Two weeks ago at age 72, Minton was hired by NCBA as a job counselor for the program. Her job now is to tell other seniors about NCBA and help them sign up for it.
She also is seeking more nonprofit organizations in Citrus County that are interested in being host agencies.
“As a host agency, we get someone who is valuable to us — they’re mature, they’re dependable, they want to work and they do a great job for us,” said Janice Hale, Senior Programs Supervisor for Citrus County Support Services. “We mainly have receptionists at all of our community centers, but they’re so valuable to us because while our staff is running around keeping everything going, they’re greeting our seniors, checking them in for activities, answering the phone, answering people’s questions about what’s going on, what’s for lunch.
“We’re getting a 20-hour a week employee, a very good employee, that we’re not paying for,” Hale said.
Besides the county-run community centers, local NCBA host agencies include the UF/IFAS Extension office, the county maintenance department and the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park.
Minton said the more organizations that sign up to be host agencies, the more people can be employed.
“Right now I’m trying to get the word out,” she said, adding that for her, she had been happy as a program participant answering phones. “But now — I never thought it would blossom the way it has.”
To learn more about being a NCBA participant or a host agency, call Sandra Minton at 408-387-2319.