Senior expo returns after one year hiatus due to pandemic

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HAZLE TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A popular expo for mature members of the community returned Thursday to the Hazleton area.

It helps connects seniors with services they may not be aware of.

“Did you do your rebates yet?” asks Representative Toohil.

Renter and property owner rebate information is only part of the latest senior expo hosted by Representative Tarah Toohil (R) 116th district. As seniors browsed five dozen vendor tables at the Laurel Mall, one thing was really on their minds.

“It’s getting worse, put it that way, with the price of things going up,” said Helen Lagana, a retiree from Hazleton.

Making ends meet is an issue for many retirees including widow Lagana.

“My husband had passed away and I mean I’m losing so much a month because of that, you know, in our Social Security,” said Lagana.

“They say the golden years, but it’s not too golden,” said Zion Grove retiree Dale Lehman.

70-year-old Lehman says his Social Security benefits don’t quite cut it so he does some odd jobs.

“I cut grass. I put brakes on for people on cars. I do some mechanical work. You know, whatever they need.” Hiller asks, “And it helps get you by?” Lehman says, “Oh yeah. Oh yeah, it does. Yes, it does,” said Lehman.

But other seniors might need something more like the Mature Worker Program through the Area Agency on Aging Luzerne/Wyoming Counties. Those 55 and older looking to re-enter the workforce are put into a training program with a government or non-profit agency.

“And they are considered volunteers in training status. While they’re there they learn hands-on experience what they’re doing and we supply them with a stipend of $7.25 an hour,” said Senior Employment Program Director for Area Agency On Aging, Denise Stalica.

Now, there are things to consider when it comes to the Mature Worker Program such as: am I going to exceed a financial threshold and jeopardize my Social Security benefit or will the job be too rigorous? Organizers say they can help you through all of that, and help create an additional stream of money to make ends meet.

“So, I think that’s an exciting opportunity coming back from COVID as part of our recovery to involve seniors and let them know they’re still needed,” said Rep. Toohil.

The Mature Worker Program helps provide positions not intended to be permanent jobs but, rather, a stepping stone into the workforce.

For more information on the Mature Worker Program, you can visit their website or call them at (570) 822-1158 (ext. 2318). For information on more resources for seniors, you can visit Tara Toohil’s website or call (570) 453-1344.

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