AARP OUTREACH: AARP Maine introduces debut column and outreach director Japhet Els

by Japhet Els

On behalf of AARP Maine, I am thrilled to be highlighting some of the important community and advocacy work AARP is doing here in Greater Skowhegan! Through this column, we hope to address interesting and helpful topics for our neighbors 50+ and their families.

We’re working to build community and get folks organized in Somerset County. Why? Because we believe Somerset is primed for progress at the local, grassroots level. To spur that energy, we began hosting a community coffee event at The Miller’s Table at Maine Grains the last Wednesday of each month. Led by local volunteers, these monthly gatherings are for you – the Greater Skowhegan community – to hear about what’s happening, and not happening, in central Maine. The coffees are a great way to meet new people and find out what we’re doing in your community. We serve free coffee and goodies. Bring a friend – all are welcome!

Secondly, I want to introduce myself. My name is Japhet (or Jay) Els and I am the AARP Maine Community Outreach Director. Part of my job is to organize the 50+ communities throughout mid-Northern Maine. It’s always a pleasure to meet our members, their friends and their families where they are, in their own hometown. If you come to the coffee, you’ll hear more about our work, but I will also be there to hear from you. What issues are of concern to you? What do you enjoy about Skowhegan? How can we collaborate?

You may know some things about AARP, but one thing you may not know is that our organization was founded 60 years ago by a retired school teacher, Dr. Ethel Percy Andrus. In addition to being a school teacher, Dr. Andrus was the first female high school principal in the state of California. Quite a pioneer! It all started when Dr. Andrus, began a campaign to provide affordable medical insurance for retired educators. Several years later, the first-ever group health insurance coverage was offered to retired teachers nationwide.

Dr. Andrus referred to AARP as “an army of useful citizens” who had the ability, the experience and the desire to promote and enhance the public good. She gave us the motto that still guides us today: “To serve, not to be served.” From this one person deciding to make a difference in the lives of others, we have grown to become a national organization with 38 million members!

Here in Maine, when the state legislature is in session, AARP staff and volunteers are at the State House, in Augusta, almost every day working to represent our 230,000 Maine members. Our goal is to be that “army of useful citizens” right where legislators are writing the laws that impact all of us. We also work with communities around Maine to enhance the lives of Mainers 50+ and their families through age-friendly initiatives, volunteerism and service.

We’re also working at the national level, fighting to lower the cost of prescription drugs through our Stop Rx Greed campaign, and to protect our retirement and health security. As a non-partisan organization we don’t get involved in party politics or campaign fundraising. Instead, you’ll see us work with policy makers on both sides of the political aisle to reach common sense consensus on crucial issues like healthcare, Social Security, Medicare, and the rising cost of prescription drugs. Please follow our work on social media (Facebook and Twitter use @aarpmaine) and send any questions you may have to me We would love to hear from you!

In one of AARP’s earliest publications, Dr. Andrus wrote ‘Our community is the place where we as individuals can be the most effective.’ This is part of her extraordinary legacy and she was right. One person, no matter their age, really can make a difference! Please come to our next free coffee at the Miller’s Table at 42 Court Street. We look forward to seeing you there!

Japhet Els is AARP Maine Community Outreach Director.


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