Lipinski Senior Fair Focuses on Services
July 5, 2011
By Tom Meyer
Marilyn Eshoo, a former secretary at Gurrie Middle School, is caught in the same predicament as countless seniors across the nation. Having retired years ago, Eshoo faces financial hardship and finds herself back at work to try to get by.
“I just can’t live on my Social Security and small pension,” said Eshoo, a Justice resident who now works with a hospital in Gary, Ind. “I heard that Congress has voted themselves a raise, while I can’t make it on my salary. I’ve been working ever since I retired and it still isn’t enough. We didn’t get a (Social Security cost-of-living adjustment) and now our Medicare deductibles are going to go up. It’s very, very difficult. That doesn’t seem equitable.”
So, Eshoo decided to attend a senior fair held by U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-3rd of Western Springs, and talk to him about what she views as problems with entitlement programs.
Eshoo was just one of dozens of seniors who came to learn about senior services at the fair, held Tuesday at American Legion Post 1941 in La Grange.
Lipinski said several seniors asked about the cost-of-living increase.
“I just cosponsored a bill to give them a $250 increase there,” Lipinski said. “But there are also general issues — the debt, the economy — that we hear about anywhere we go, and we certainly talk to people about that here too.”
The fair consisted of about 20 booths from various government and private organizations offering senior and social services, and allowed those in attendance to find out about assistance for the elderly, Lipinski said.
“The seniors love these,” Lipinski said. “They not only have the chance to see me, but they also get to find out about the services that they need.”
Seniors were able to go from booth to booth, where they were offered such services as free emergency cell phones from Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart’s office and free eye exams at a mobile driver’s test unit from Secretary of State Jesse White’s office.
“A mobile unit can offer everything except for the actual road test, including license renewals,” Terry Sullivan, an employee with the Secretary of State’s Office, said. “We’ve had a really good response. People seem very appreciative.”
A few booths over, Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford’s office allowed attendees to plug their name into a database and see if the state owed them any money.
Lipinski said these sort of services, in addition to the assistance his office can offer to constituents, make the fair a good venue for seniors who are having issues with their benefits.
“My office works on helping out with Social Security and Medicare benefits, and we deal with veterans benefits and cases where there are medals that have been awarded but not received,” Lipinski said. “It’s much easier for a senior to come to one of these fairs and speak directly with my staff so they can go look into it than it would be for a constituent to try to solve this on their own.”
One such constituent was Georgian Rekash, a Countryside resident. Rekash said she has had issues with mail and sale fliers arriving to her house late.
“The congressman’s office was very helpful, and all of these services are very useful,” said Rekash, who is involved with the La Grange based seniors group Aging Well. “I’m always finding out what services are offered so that I can share them with others.”
In addition to the government services available at the fair, private groups and companies that provide senior services also set up booths and offered information about financial and social services. Such organizations included financial companies, assisted living facilities and the mental and social services group Pillars.
“People seem really excited,” said Colleen Mallon, director of special events at Pillars. “One woman even noted the stigma around getting help, and we have an anti-stigma campaign going on right now. So we’re glad to see people reaching out.”
While many seniors at the fair said they were there to find out about their financial options and to take advantage of free services, others came simply to meet with Lipinski, who spoke with constituents for about a half an hour.
“We came to talk to Congressman Lipinski,” Arlene Mesnard said of Kenneth Mysliwiec and herself. “We thanked him for signing onto a bill to honor the Civil Air Patrol. He’s a cosponsor of that, so we got the chance to thank him.”
Outside of the fair, however, protester Stephanie Bilenko of LaGrange Park held signs encouraging the end of American military involvement abroad.
“I’m here because I get Rep. Lipinski’s newsletters so I saw that he’d be here,” she said. “I’ve gone into his office to speak to them before and I was glad to see that he voted against authorizing some of our actions in Libya. But I think we’ve been (in Afghanistan) long enough. Bin Laden’s dead. We could use that money here.”
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