AGENCY SPOTLIGHT: COLFAX COUNCIL ON AGING & HUMAN SERVICES
Author: Elias Piña
Nestled in a valley of wheat-covered hills and at a fork in the Palouse River sits the quiet town of Colfax, Washington. Colfax boasts a storied heritage rooted in agriculture. And with a population of just under 3,000 residents, it is the seat of Whitman County. The highway leading into town gives way to a historic Main Street, lined with classic brick buildings sporting flags of the local university favorite, Washington State University. This picturesque part of downtown Colfax is where the Council on Aging and Human Services can be found.
The Council on Aging (COA) and Human Services once operated out of a smaller room in Colfax’s 210 South Main Street address. Through the help of grants from the USDA and WSDA, COA Human Services purchased the entire building, allowing for an expansion of operations. Current programs include a food pantry, a home-delivery meal service and onsite meals. They also offer transportation and mobility services in a 9-county service area in Washington and Idaho.Executive Director Paige Collins, who has been with the Council on Aging since February 2015, has a heart for helping all who are in need, saying “I think the thing I love the most is that our agency serves the entire Whitman County area, not just part of it.” Collins also partners with local food pantries throughout Whitman County and WSU’s Palouse Fresh Food Project as they actively seek out additional resources, such as providing Senior Farmer’s Market Vouchers for clients.
With the help of bi-monthly food pickups at the Second Harvest Spokane Distribution Center and support from other organizations, the staff of COA Human Services stock their pantry shelves with healthy, nutritious food for clients. COA Human Services’ food pantry is set up to mirror a grocery store featuring shelves lined with beverages, canned goods and breads. Refrigerators and freezers are filled with fresh produce and dairy. Clients walk through the pantry with a grocery cart and select the food they would like to bring home while volunteers assist in filling the clients’ carts. As the volunteers load up the grocery carts, they encourage clients to take nutritious food and provide clients with cooking instructions featuring wholesome recipes.Having the volunteers load up carts was initially a safety measure that Council on Aging enacted during the ongoing pandemic to keep people safe, but the staff are grateful to be open for in-person shopping again. “You know, COVID really brought us a lot of challenges, but I think that ALL of our pantries really took it to heart!” Collins said, “I think they enjoyed figuring out how to serve the community members who needed food all the while keeping their volunteers and clients safe.”
Although there have been some changes in expansion and service due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, one thing that hasn’t changed for the Council on Aging is their commitment to enhancing lives while supporting the community with transportation and nutrition services throughout Whitman County.
“Not only do we provide nutrition and transportation services, we pride ourselves on being a resource ‘hub’ for folks for anything really! We know who to call or where to start at least for any needs our community members bring to us.”
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