Senior Citizens Employment and Services of Alexandria, Inc., began its new fiscal year this month in a happy situation. There are more jobs than applicants to fill them.
"We always have more jobs than we can fill," said Mary Ann Ormes, director of the nonprofit corporation. "We feel that anybody who really wants to work, we can place."
The positions "run the gamut from yard work up to professional jobs," she added. They include companion work with persons recently hospitalized, cooking, and positions in the clerical, sales, accounting and library fields, among others.
In the 23 months that ended May 31, the organization received 1,279 job orders and filled 525 of them.
The total number of information and referral calls during that period was 16,031 - or double the volume of two years earlier. The number of individuals seen at the center, at 121 North St. Asaph Street, was 3,400.
Job placement, however, is only one of many services that the center provides for persons age 60 and over - all at no charge. The variety of the requests means there is "never a dull moment," said Ormes. She cited these recent contacts:
A man, age 85, called at 10 a.m. when his reduced-fare taxi at that hour had not arrived. "I'm a busy man," he declared. "I don't have time to wait."
A woman phoned, also in connection with a taxi ride, and asked which grocery stores were selling chickens at the lowest prices that week.
A man, 72, drove up on his motorcycle, parked out front and walked in, still wearing his helmet, to announce that he had his own business and was looking for consultant work to do.
The corporation, with the senior citizens' center it runs, is an unusual operation. Its budget for the year just begun is $83,600; the largest contributor is the city of Alexandria. However, it also receives funds from federal programs, the state of Virginia, tax-deductible, individual memberships, and in-kind contributions by many firms and civic groups.
The center prides itself on helping in many ways, small and large, and on its ability to move swiftly to meet a clear need - without waiting for a law to be passed, a regulation to be approved or voluminous paperwork to be accomplished.
"We try to react to needs as they appear," said Ormes. "We don't turn anybody away for services."
Another advantage that SCE&S enjoys as a private corporation, she said, is the ability to help people who are in need but are just above official poverty levels. The corporation is not limited by income levels, he noted, in use of private funds or those received under the Older Americans Act.
One of its most successful programs, begun in 1972 after the owner of a drugstore suggested it, is the discount program. More than 200 Alexandria-area firms now honor the ID cards that the center issues, and more than 7,500 people hold them. Most firms give a 10 percent discout to seniors but some offer more.
Much newer is the fuel-relief program begun in January 1977. Corporation officials realized that the combination of a severe winter and escalating heating costs would mean hardship, and the program began with a mix of private, federal and state funds.
Other SCE&S functions include:
Issuing ID cards which enable those 65 and older to go anywhere in the Metro transit system at half fare.
Aid on applications for those seeking help through the city program of property-tax relief or rental assistance.
Guidance on finding suitable housing. Housing is the "toughest nut for senior citizens" if they are uprooted and forced to move, said Ormes.
Transportation, with more than 5,600 rides last year on a "senior trolley" and more than 9,900 on the federally-subsidized taxi program.
SCE&S welcomes any senior who wants to come - for help, or for coffee, or just to talk.
Said Ormes: "In the cold weather we had a whole group of men who came in every day and sat most of the day. We see people of all income levels. They're comfortable coming in here."
The corporation was formed in 1968 - originally to give help on employment only. Its president, William R. Loichot, is a bank officer. Its 23-member board of directors meets quarterly, and its executive committee more often.
The staff of the center consists of 12 people - six paid part-timers and six working as volunteers. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. The phone number is 836-4414.