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Senior Adults Hold Dialogue with Congressman Long

Billy Long

The organization Experience Works invited Congressman Billy Long to meet with senior adults to discuss issues concerning older residents of Southwest Missouri. KSMU’s Brandon Goodwin reports.

Augustine Reese sits in the third row in The Boys and Girls Club gymnasium. She’s fifty-nine years old and she’s here to tell Congressman Billy Long how much Experience Works means to her.

“I’ve been looking for my unemployment since 2008. I haven’t got it yet. It’s really hard. If it wasn’t for Experience Works I don’t know what I’d do. I would be homeless,” she said.

Experience Works, formerly known as Green Thumb, is a non-profit organization that provides employment training for low income seniors through the Senior Community Service Employment Program, or SCSEP.

Reese has found employment through Experience Works for the past six months, working as a maintenance supervisor and youth mentor.

“I’m teaching them how to clean, cook, wash, all that good stuff. I love it. I love it,” she said.Reese and her two friends, Elaine and Rebecca, listen as Long explains his recent decisions in Washington.

“The spending that we’ve been doing in this country is absolutely out of control and off the charts,” he said.

Some members of the crowd nod in agreement when Long talks about responsible government spending and cutting the deficit. But cutting spending could mean downsizing the very program that helped them find work.

[Sound: “Are senior programs on the chopping block?”]

“When I ran for congress, I said, ‘we have to honor our commitment to our seniors,’ and that’s exactly what I plan to do and that’s exactly what we’re going to work on in Washington D.C.”

Experience Works receives funding through SCSEP from the Department of Labor. The recently-approved 39 billion dollars in Congressional budget cuts would reduce SCSEP funding from 800 million dollars (which included some stimulus money) to 450 million dollars.

Long voted against the legislation, insisting that 39 billion is not enough. He says members of Congress should take a closer look to see exactly which programs they’re cutting.

“To be frank about it, I don’t think the people who voted for that 39 billion know what they voted for and even realize what might all be in it,” he said.

Last year in Southwest Missouri, Experience Works provided service to nearly four hundred seniors and helped secure more than a million dollars in salaries and fringe benefits to senior adults.

For seniors like Augustine Reese, this has meant food on the table, a place to live, and a community of friends and coworkers.

“I feel really really whole again because of them. They make me feel good. I’ll be sixty May 11th. I feel like I’m sixteen again. Thanks to Experience Works. We’re old, but we’re bold,” she said.

[Sound: Laughing.]

For KSMU News, I’m Brandon Goodwin.