St. Johns Housing Partnership Teams with Council on Aging to Provide Resource for Southern Villas Residents

ST. AUGUSTINE – Meet Claudia Marcus. She’s a fixer of sorts.
After one and a half years volunteering with the St. Johns Council on Aging (COA), a partnership between COA and the St. Johns Housing Partnership (SJHP) has Marcus on the property at Southern Villas as Services Coordinator. But her work goes much deeper than that, benefiting residents at the affordable housing community in numerous ways. “It must be an open door. We have numerous scheduled activities and events, but the crux of my work is to help residents navigate a variety of issues ranging from technology to Medicaid, to transportation, to applying for food stamps or learning how to prevent scams,” Marcus said. By the way. She loves her job.

Claudia Marcus with Southern Villas residents Kay Jackson and Judy Miller working on some arts and crafts for Mothers’ Day.

“There is joy, comfort, and fun. Providing a resource is very satisfying. It’s like my home away from home. Buoyed by the fact that most of the residents really appreciate what we are trying to do,” she said.

SJHP owns Southern Villas, a USDA subsidized multifamily property for elderly and handicapped. Dimension One is the onsite property management company that accepts applications and maintains the property as well as a long waiting list.

“Having someone like Claudia that is approachable, knowledgeable and caring is a wonderful situation for the residents,” noted SJHP Executive Director Bill Lazar. “She goes beyond the nuts and bolts of property management and is a vital part of the team and critical to helping our residents age safely and independently in their own space.” Creating a family atmosphere at Southern Villas is paramount in the safety and well-being of the residents which brought the SJHP and Dimension One to contract with COA for services.

As activities director Marcus schedules special events and activities. They can range from arts and crafts projects for holidays, to bingo, chair yoga and birthday celebrations. But the day-to-day needs of residents draw her primary attention.

“We talk with residents about technology. That can be one-on-one computer training to getting questions answered about the Internet or cell phone service,” she said. “Then there are questions and concerns about jury duty, getting a walker or bus passes. It’s never dull. And very rewarding.” Southern Villas does not allow solicitation on the campus. Despite the signs, some salespeople will approach residents. Then there are all kinds of solicitors.
“We have tried to step up our communication about scams. Sadly, targeting seniors is on the rise. They range from phone calls to emails,” Marcus said. A detective from the St. Johns Sheriff’s Office made a presentation to residents on how to spot a scam and gave practical advice on what to do if you suspect they have been targeted. Marcus set up the presentation in the hope of warding off potential trouble.

Leslie Gamache, program manager with St. Johns County Council on Aging said COA worked with Lazar to create this on-site resource for residents at Southern Villas.
“We strive to provide greater dignity, independence, social inclusion, and quality of life and independence for seniors,” added Gamache. “The work here is part of our mission. Claudia does a great job.” Now celebrating 50 years, COA served its first congregate meals and delivered its first home-delivered meals in 1974. Whether scheduling a visit by the book mobile, a holiday luncheon, advanced care planning or entertainment in the Southern Villas community event space, Marcus is relied on to make life better for residents.

Claudia Marcus with resident Bill Schuler.