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Reflecting on 50 Years of Service to Seniors and Caregivers in St. Johns County

For 50 years, Council on Aging (COA) has been on a journey to empower our community’s elders to live their best lives at every age. Since serving our first congregate meals and delivering our first home-delivered meals in 1974, our focus has been on providing essential nutrition, transportation, and independent living services for our community’s elders. Now with six senior centers and lifelong learning centers, four memory care locations, and transportation to all 600 square miles of our county, we are able to offer older residents a much wider array of life enhancing opportunities than when we started COA.

As we have throughout our history, we continue to pursue opportunities to provide greater dignity, independence, social inclusion, and well-being for those we serve. Whether it is a meal prepared with love, a strong hand to help with tasks around the house, or an engaging program to stay active, healthy, and connected, we are dedicated to supporting quality of life and independence for seniors and caregivers in St. Johns County.

In the next year, we will be highlighting some of the visionary individuals in our community who have made COA what it is today. These community members have enabled COA to change lives for the better for generations of local elders and caregivers. To follow these inspiring stories, please visit this page over the coming months, or sign up to receive our weekly e-newsletter by clicking here.

We would not be where we are today without your support. Thank you to all of our champions – our funders, donors, volunteers, staff, and community partners – for supporting our important mission.

Together, the future for seniors and caregivers – our future – will grow ever brighter into the next 50 years and beyond.

Becky Yanni, Executive Director

As we reflect on the past 50 years, we will present conversations with some of the members of our community who have been instrumental in enabling COA to evolve to meet the growing needs of elders and caregivers in St. Johns County.

To learn more about ways to get involved and make a difference with COA, please click here or call (904) 209-3700.

View a timeline of key milestones in COA’s history below:

KEY MILESTONES IN COA HISTORY

1973:

Council on Aging is incorporated as a nonprofit organization, officially named, “St Johns County Citizens Advisory Council on Aging, Inc.”

1974:

Meals on Wheels program begins and first Congregate Meals are served at the Flagler Hospital cafeteria on February 4, 1974. Transportation for participants and meal deliveries are provided by volunteers.  60 lunches are served and 10 meals are delivered to homebound elders. By December 1974, COA had served 27,188 meals to 478 senior participants, 10% of which were home-delivered Meals on Wheels.

Transportation and Paratransit (door-to-door) services begin, providedto congregate meal sites, hospital, medical and dental appointments.

Independent Living Services information and referral services program begins in order to support elders in enjoying independence at home for as long as possible. The program offers case management services to assess the needs of elders and assist them in obtaining subsidized services including personal care, homemaking, respite, and home-delivered meals. It also serves as an information resource for older adults and caregivers seeking information and referral services.

Additional Congregate Meal sites are established at Trinity Parish and Echo House in St. Augustine.

COA administrative offices are established in the City of St. Augustine building.

1976:

Council on Aging’s name is officially changed to St. Johns County Council on Aging, Inc.

Flagler Hospital Congregate Meal site is moved to The Floridian.

Hastings Congregate Meal site is opened. 24 congregate meals are served and Meals on Wheels are delivered to 14 homebound elders.

1978:

Congregate meal sites are Grace Methodist Church, Echo House, and Hastings, where between 80 to 90 total meals are served per day.

1980:

COA purchases the former Ramada Inn Cafeteria at 11 Old Mission Avenue in St. Augustine from Mrs. Frances Worm, after a lengthy fundraising drive led by COA Board vice-president Rosalie Gordon Mills.

After extensive remodeling, COA opens the first Senior Center in St. Johns County at the 11 Old Mission Avenue facility on October 1, 1980.

1982:

Colee Cove congregate meal site opens

1983:

COA Board president Rosalie Gordon Mills receives presidential award from President Reagan’s Task Force on Private Sector Initiatives.

1985:

New Hastings Congregate Meal site opens on February 11, 1985 at Bethune-Cookman Extension Center, Rte. 207, Spuds.

Respite Care / Caregiver Support program is created to serve caregivers.

COA purchases the annex at 15 Old Mission Avenue to house the COA transportation department. Transportation trips provided by COA’s fleet of 15 vans totaled 35,000 trips for seniors to medical/dental appointments, hospital, and shopping visits.

1999:

COA Administrative offices move to 179 Marine Street, St. Augustine.

COA Prescription Assistance Program is created.

COA creates a Commuter Bus route service between West Augustine and St. Augustine Beach to help residents travel to and from work; names the transportation service The Sunshine Bus.

2000:

Sunshine Bus system is officially established on May 1, 2000 offering two routes, east/west and north/south. COA’s Christy Sandy and Cathy Brown work with Jim Bryant from St. Johns County to design the routes.

Trout Creek Community Senior Center opens on November 13, 2000 to serve northwest St. Johns County.

2001:

COA’s Coastal Community Senior Center opens at 180 Marine Street in St. Augustine.

COA’s Transportation Services relocate from 15 Old Mission Avenue to Anastasia Plaza on Anastasia Island.

COA’s The Cottage thrift store opens at 15 Old Mission Avenue to raise funds for COA programs and services for seniors and caregivers.  

2002:

COA launches the Coastal Travel Club and Lifelong Learning Center to serve active older adults.

2003:

Sunshine Center therapeutic adult day health care center opens at 179 Marine Street.

Administrative and Fiscal offices move to 180 Marine Street, St. Augustine.

Palm Valley Senior Program opens at Palm Valley Community Center at 148 Canal Blvd. to serve seniors in Ponte Vedra Beach.

2004:

Care Connection program is launched, offering services to support seniors in maintaining their independence at home, powered by local volunteers.

2005:

The Cottage COA Thrift Store closes with the sale of 15 Old Mission Avenue, St. Augustine.

2007:

THE PLAYERS Community Senior Center opens in Ponte Vedra Beach.

Coastal Home Care home care program is launched.

2008:

COA wins the National Community Transportation Award.

Sunshine Center moves to 180 Marine Street; Open House held on April 28, 2008.

2009:

Caregiver Support program is awarded a $100,000 2-year grant through Johnson & Johnson Foundation and the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregivers to bring an evidence-based program from university to community. This was accomplished through a collaboration with the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences’ Occupational Therapy department.  

2010:

RIVER HOUSE, COA’s lifelong learning center and five-star events venue,opens at 179 Marine Street, St. Augustine. Architect is Jerry Dixon: Interior Designer is Susan Goedert.

New Transportation Headquarters opens at 2595 Old Moultrie Road, St. Augustine, October 3, 2010

IMEP, COA’s original Integrative Memory Enhancement Program, is created.

2012:

Community Care-Giving program is officially established and expands caregiver support and education services to serve all areas of St. Johns County, supported by a $20,000 grant received from United Healthcare. The program provides individual needs assessments to address each caregiver’s specific situation and provide them with the best information, help, education, and support possible.

2015:

Ponte Vedra Memory Care Center opens at 175 Landrum Lane in Ponte Vedra Beach, replacing Palm Valley Senior Program.

Hastings Community Senior Center opens at the Lord’s Temple church at 140 Gilmore St. in Hastings.

Coastal Transportation begins providing shuttle transportation services.

COA’s Integrative Memory Enhancement Program, IMEP™, is trademarked and copyrighted. IMEP™ begins being leased to outside agencies and facilities that serve seniors throughout Florida and the U.S.

2020:

Sunshine Bus celebrates 20 years of service to St. Johns County. Service has grown from original two routes to eighteen routes (nine routes twice a day.)

Online lifelong learning and support programs are created in response to COVID-19 pandemic closures.

COA Meals on Wheels program triples number of home-delivered meals to newly homebound elders in response to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and closures.

Coastal Home Care is purchased by Concierge Care.

2021:

COA Center at Flagler Health+ Village at Nocatee opens.

COA Senior Centers reopen after introduction of COVID-19 vaccines.

2022:

Hastings Senior Center location moves to the Al Wilke Community Park & Center at 6150 South Main Street in Hastings.

2023:

Sunshine Center therapeutic adult day health care center celebrates 20 years of service.

2024:

Council on Aging celebrates 50th anniversary of service to older adults and caregivers in St. Johns County.