Though he had many ideas to discuss with U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, one thing resonated with Ron Sparks after he visited the Glen East Apartments in Dothan Monday.
“My biggest takeaway is how nice this facility is, and there are not enough of them,” Jones’ regional director for the Middle District of Alabama, said. “We’ve got to continue to do everything we can get as many facilities here – this nice – so that the people have a quality place to live the last few years of their life.”
Sparks met with Glen East residents to discuss the issues that concern senior citizens today. A few residents expressed the need for more housing like Glen East, a complex that provides subsidized rent for the elderly.
Glen East’s first phase opened in 2011, and a second phase opened in 2012 – providing 76 apartments. The development exists through a partnership between the Wiregrass Foundation, B’nai B’rith International and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Sparks said the facility highlights the importance of public-private partnerships to meet the needs of American citizens, especially senior citizens.
“You can’t do too much for senior citizens. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and they’re the giants that we stand on,” he said. “I always believe in public-private partnerships. It usually gets the job done a little quicker than trying to depend on government all the way.”
After touring the facilities, including visiting a couple of different apartments, Sparks fielded questions from Glen East residents in a community room. Some expressed concerns about the future viability of the Social Security program, to which Sparks said he believed it should not be a problem for today’s senior citizens.
“There’s probably some reform needed for the (generations) behind us,” Sparks, 66, said. “I don’t think it’ll run out (of money).”
Another expressed concerns over the inability to buy healthy foods, especially in winter months and when unexpected costs arise. She suggested the government provide a $200 debit card for senior citizens to purchase the foods, an idea Sparks said he would refer to Jones for consideration.
Though Jones and Sparks – a former gubernatorial candidate and former Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries commissioner –are Democrats, Glen East resident Gayle McCoy appreciated the chance to discuss issues that affect senior citizens.
“I thought it was nice. I thought what he had to say was good,” she said. “(It’s important) to let us know what Doug Jones thinks and supports. We don’t know what all these politicians believe and stand for. If he’ll follow through on these things (discussed), that will be great.”