In a few weeks, Calhoun County voters will be asked to renew the Senior Millage.  Once you start looking at what is done in our community with those funds, you start to see what a bargain it is.  For about a dollar a week, the Senior Millage funds 22 programs to serve older adults, age 60 and over.  Senior Millage is on the ballot for a ten-year renewal on August 4, 2020.  In 2019, Senior Millage funded programs served over 6,600 older adults.   And the thing to remember is that in every one of those programs and partnerships you’ll find exceptional and caring workers…….like Jolene English.

Jolene truly exemplifies a lifetime of service to older adults, having served over 23 years in Calhoun County and 34 years serving seniors throughout southern Michigan. Jolene started work at CareWell Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Barry and Calhoun counties, in 1996, and has served in numerous positions, but is best known for her involvement in the Medicare/Medicaid Assistance Program (MMAP).

In a unanimous vote, the Senior Millage Allocation Committee has chosen Jolene English as the recipient of the Joanne Konkle Lifetime Leadership Award.

Through her work, Jolene identified other areas of concern for county seniors and was influential in working with Guardian Finance & Advocacy Services to help persons with guardians access Medicare Part D and other public services; partnering with the Climate Change Coalition to provide energy-efficient light bulbs to CareWell clients; and collaborating with the Battle Creek Fire Department to install smoke detectors in seniors homes, free of charge. While Jolene’s focus was Medicare and Medicaid issues, she never hesitated to step outside the box and figure out what other issues she could help seniors solve.

In 2009, Jolene was recognized for Outstanding Service to Michigan’s Medicare Beneficiaries and Outstanding Achievement Meeting Core Contract Goals from the statewide MMAP organization. In 2011, Jolene and her MMAP team were again recognized by the state with the MIPPA Helping Hand Award for enrolling the most low-income beneficiaries in the Low-Income Subsidy and Medicare Savings Programs. And in 2013, Jolene won the coveted Regional Coordinator of the Year for the state of Michigan.

In 2015, Jolene moved to part-time to care for her aging life partner. Even while grieving, she continued to serve county seniors in figuring out complex Medicare and Medicaid issues. Since stepping down from the Medicare/Medicaid Coordinator role, Jolene has mentored her two Regional Coordinator successors.

CareWell CEO Karla Fales states, “Jolene exemplifies our values of respect, teamwork, and compassion, not just in her work ethics but how she lives her personal life. She sees a need and is willing to come alongside to help individuals navigate to a solution. She is a social worker at heart – a social worker who believes in the power of people helping each other and themselves. I think these are values that Joanne would be proud to have aligned with an award bearing her name.”

It is exceptionally fitting to award this recognition to Jolene, as she and Joanne Konkle both received their social work degrees from Western Michigan University, and both women were well known and well-loved for their baked goods. Joanne’s specialty was banana bread, while Jolene’s is banana blueberry muffins.

An in-person presentation of the award is planned for the Thursday, August 20, 2020, Calhoun County Board of Commissioners meeting, barring any additional COVID-19 restrictions.

This leadership award was established in 2017 to honor the lifetime work of Joanne Konkle (1934-2018) who retired as the Administrator of the Calhoun County Medical Care Facility after 19 years in 2003, and then gave many years of exceptional volunteer service to the Calhoun County Senior Millage Allocation Committee, the Forks Senior Center in Albion, and the Marian Burch Adult Day Care Center in Battle Creek. When Joanne started her career in Social Work, she helped establish the Marian Burch Adult Day Care by writing a grant to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In the 1970s, Joanne was a Calhoun County Board Commissioner. This award recognizes professionals in service to the aged that have followed Joanne Konkle’ s example of providing public service with compassion, commitment, and generosity.

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