The East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging (ECIAAA) has been an important partner of the Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development for the last six years. ECIAAA Executive Director Mike O’Donnell said, “The (Stevenson Center) Fellows have enabled our agency to advance strategic goals to make our communities better places to grow up and grow old.” Founded in 1972, the ECIAAA plans, coordinates, and advocates for a network of services for older people and their caregivers across 16 counties. By empowering older adults with relevant supportive services, the agency maximizes the dignity and independence of persons 60 years of age or older so that they can safely live in their homes as long as possible.

Stevenson Center Fellows have assisted the ECIAAA with a number of projects, starting with comprehensive assessment and planning for the statewide Maturing of Illinois initiative. Fellows have also helped the ECIAAA with data management and the economic impact of aging services. In 2012 and 2013, Peace Corps Fellows alum Dane Myers’05, M.S. ’13, supported the collaborative development of a network of Aging and Disability Resource Centers. He also worked to increase participation at congregate meal sites.

“My capstone project, involving a review of the area’s senior nutrition programs, allowed me to combine skills I learned in both the Peace Corps and the classroom,” Myers said.  “I feel my service here will continue to have a direct impact on East Central Illinois.”

Alum Joseph Alustiza, M.A. ’09, noted: “During my fieldwork with the ECIAAA team, I applied the community-based assessment and program management skills gained during my Peace Corps service in East Timor. The mentorship provided by ECIAAA’s Executive Director Mike O’Donnell and the teamwork from the agency’s staff helped me to grow personally and professionally as a Peace Corps Fellow.”

Amber Madden, M.S. ’13, who also served with the ECIAAA, added: “I was able to take the more theoretical concepts learned in the classroom and apply them directly to my work to strengthen my understanding. Mike was a great mentor. Always patient, he possessed an incredible wealth of knowledge, and he was genuinely concerned for my professional development.”

Through ECIAAA staff leadership, particularly by O’Donnell and Planning and Programming Manager Susan Real, Stevenson Center Fellows have had invaluable learning experiences.