Letter to the Editor: Calling new Alzheimer’s office ‘the first’ discredits previously laid groundwork

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — It made my day when I read your article “Alzheimer’s Association celebrates opening of first St. George office.” There is an enormous need for services and programs for families impacted by Alzheimer’s or a related dementia in the five county area. I know this because I was the original Southern Utah Regional Coordinator for the Utah Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association from 2001 to 2006.

Read more: Alzheimer’s Association celebrates opening of first St. George office

That’s right, the “first” St. George office representing the Alzheimer’s Association actually opened in the broom closet of Sterling Court Assisted Living 17 years ago. When I was hired, I learned that there were no caregiver support groups or community education programs running in the entire five county region. The Memory Walk that year (now the Walk to End Alzheimer’s) occurred two days before my first day of employment and raised less than $1000.

Fast forward five years. By 2006, the office had moved to a larger space in the Five County Association of Governments building and offered caregiver support groups in all five counties. Community education programs were delivered regularly at senior centers and other civic gatherings, care consultations occurred with individuals and families, and Safe Return bracelets and caregiver jewelry were provided to families struggling with wandering behavior.

Also during this time, the St. George office partnered with the Area Agency on Aging and the Volunteer Center of Iron County to offer the first Southern Utah Seniors Conference, which still occurs annually in Cedar City.

A vibrant advisory council guided the St. George office to ensure our programs met the unique needs of Southern Utah families. The council also mobilized our fundraising. In 2006, the St. George Memory Walk raised over $25,000 — a vast improvement over 2001 and the most of any Memory Walk in the state, including Salt Lake City.

Though I was the only employee in the St. George office, none of this could have happened without the support and hard work of partner agencies such as the Area Agency on Aging, the Volunteer Centers of Iron and Washington Counties, and many nonprofits, businesses, and dedicated volunteers.

I am sure that champions in the community such as Carrie Schonlaw and Ron Cardon, who continue to contribute to the well-being of Southern Utah to this day, would agree that those early days are a pleasure to remember, even amidst the challenges we faced in building something from the ground up.

When I left my role at the St. George office in 2006 to begin freelance writing, LuAnn Lundquist took over and did a tremendous job building upon the foundation that had been laid. Because I moved away in 2009, I am unaware of how or why the St. George office eventually closed, but I know the Utah Chapter went through dramatic changes over the next several years, akin to a rebirth.

Perhaps this is why the Utah Chapter is calling the new St. George office the “first” of its kind. I’m sure the chapter is looking for a fresh start in Southern Utah, so calling this the first office to ever open in St. George bolsters that idea.

I truly wish them well. But I feel that leaving out a crucial part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s history in Southern Utah discredits the hard work of all those who persevered to make a difference so many years ago. It also fails to remember and honor the countless families affected by Alzheimer’s disease who benefited from our services and who believed in us and what we were creating for the community.

Submitted by CARRIE HILL STECKL, a stay-at-home mom, writer and Alzheimer’s Association volunteer in Austin, Texas.

Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting..

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1 Comment

  • No Name September 12, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    Ms. Steckl: LuAnn stayed very true to this most worthwhile cause after 2009. She continues to serve those men and women affected with Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease, and their families, every day in Washington County…
    I’m her first cousin and I witnessed how much she loved my mother (her aunt), who was afflicted with Multiple Sclerosis for 25+ years…
    LuAnn Lundquist was born caring about those with challenges, and her actions show it day after day…

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