CHIPLEY - What is the main ingredient in yeilding a life of independence and longevity? Anita Clarke, Executive Director of Washington County Council on Aging, says the answer is a consistent stream of support.

"We're here to held the elderly and let them age with dignity," Clarke said. "Most of them like to stay in their own homes."

And an upcoming cookbook fundraiser is set to help WCCOA meet that need in Washington County. The project presents several opportunities to support the elderly: businesses can receive a free ad placement in the cookbook in return for placing the book sale flyer at their place of business and/or invite patrons to purchase the book, individuals and businesses can take out a paid advertisement, also, contribute recipes to the book.

The deadline for ads and contributions is Sept. 26.

WCCOA, 1348 South Blvd., is a not-for-profit organization that provides in-home and onsite services for the local aging and disable community. The program is funded by governmental grants and programs, private donations and community-oriented fundraisers.

It serves about 125 clients in Washington County, where about 20-percent of the population is 65 years of age or older, according to a 2017 report from U.S. Census Bureau.

Currently, about 90 people are on the waiting list to receive WCCOA services, including the meal program.

"We struggle here because it's so rural and everyone is needing," Clarke said. "So, when you ask [for private financial support], people get tired of it."

"That's why we started our cake auction and our Senior Expo," she said, noting the fundraisers raise about $4,500 combined.

The majority of WCCOA's comes from governmental grants. However, some of them still require matching funds.

"And then we don't get enough funding to see all of our seniors in our county, so then we use that money to put in the pot to help provide services for them," Clarke said referring to fundraisers. "It goes back into the community."

The multi-level services the organization provides include meals, baths, care-giver relief, and homemaker and housekeeping services. WCCOA also offers a free day center for individuals with memory disorders.

Clarke said the primary misconception about WCCOA lies in how people perceive the program. Unfortunately, that misconception results in fewer resources getting to the people who actually need them.

"A lot of people think it's for really low-income people," she said. "It's not. It covers anybody. The only difference is they have a co-pay if they're not eligible for Medicaid, but it is very low compared to the services you receive."

The organization provides opportunities for sponsorship to provide meals to clients for as low as $5 per meal. Other sponsorships for other amounts are available. Volunteers are needed, particularly to deliver meals.

To support the program, cookbook sale or to find elderly services, contact Washington County Council on Aging at 850-638-6216 or wccoa@bellsouth.net.