Five questions for … Kimberly Smith

By Alaina Seiter // Photography by Angela Jackson

Nurturing comes naturally to Kimberly Smith. Married to her high school sweetheart and a mother of two, the Johnson County native serves as executive director of Johnson County Senior Services (JCSS) where she compassionately strives to ensure that senior adults in the community receive the assistance they need.
Smith’s desire to care for others was evident early in her professional career when she was called into ministry work. In fact, as an ordained pastor, Smith was inspired to assist faith-driven men and women on a daily basis. However, little did she know at the time that the skills she developed while working in ministry would ultimately help her turn a once struggling JCSS agency into a flourishing organization that truly impacts the lives of older adults through love, support and various services.
A Franklin College Women of Distinction Award nominee, Smith, a champion for Dementia Friends Indiana and Johnson County Aging in Action as well as a member of the Johnson County Senior Summit, has harnessed her passion for service into a career dedicated to helping seniors and bettering their lives.
“Seniors are suffering, and people just don’t know,” she said. “What they go through alone is absolutely heartbreaking, I will stay here indefinitely unless I am called to service others elsewhere.”

What is the role of Johnson County Senior Services?
We first and foremost wish to uplift and encourage seniors in our community. Whether that be personally, or through one of our many specialty programs, our ultimate goal is to help and care for seniors enduring a multitude of hardships alone. Forty-five years and running, we are a free, door-to-door service that helps seniors who are in pursuit of independent living from the comfort of their own homes. We want them to know they are loved and cared for.
Our operation began with free transportation services. Today, drivers still, without charge, assist seniors with their day-to-day activities. Whether they’re going to an appointment, to the store, or just looking for a chance to get out and explore, seniors fall in love with our drivers and their hospitality. We want seniors to be able to continue to experience the things they enjoy, even if those things look a little different than they used to.
As the most underfunded group, seniors need our support most of all. The JCSS food pantry supplies almost anything desired. It’s as simple as calling in to place an order and having our drivers make the delivery. In addition, we provide assistance with medical equipment and have supplied many wheelchairs and electric scooters to our seniors, free of charge.

What changes has Johnson County Senior Services implemented in recent times?
JCSS has committed a great deal of time to offering services that help with the physical care of seniors. While these services are crucial to our operation, emotional support is a need that tends to be overlooked.
Our newest addition, the PAWSitivity pet program, provides services to seniors who have pets. As they get older, we find that many older adults spend a lot of time providing for a pet, and in doing so, neglect themselves. Through numerous donations, we are able to help seniors give their furry friends food, toys and medical needs without having to risk their own health.
While most seniors tend to live alone, socialization is inhibited, and many older Americans experience the dire effects of loneliness. In an effort to combat loneliness, our program, Johnson County Aging in Action, created a place for seniors to socialize and take part in activities with others in their community. Seniors Still Believe is another service that gives gifts during the holidays to remind those in their retirement years that they are still recognized and loved.

What do enjoy most about your job?
Enhancing the quality of life for our seniors and doing anything in my power to see them smile. These are wonderful people with incredible stories, and getting to spend time with them is a blessing within itself.
Something we particularly enjoy is being able to witness the joy that comes to a senior’s face when that person gets to experience something they love. For example, every Thursday, those who choose to participate take part in a ballet and cheer class.
Whether it be at a women’s bible study or simply a local event, I will never stop promoting this organization and the happiness it brings to me, my co-workers and the individuals we serve.

What are some of your organization’s biggest challenges?
Funding, as is with all nonprofit organizations. There is no shortage of support and compassion, but there are only small grants available for transportation pieces and machinery.
In the next four and a half years, there will be more senior citizens in this country than any other age group. That means more transportation requirements and the need for additional funding for an age group that sees it the least. As a faith-driven community, we have four churches helping our organization. I would like to see that number increase over the next few years.

What can Johnson County residents do to assist? How can people get involved?
Pray, volunteer and donate — there are many things to be done within our community, but those are the top three that are most crucial. We need supplies and equipment to help improve lives. Even something as small as sharing and promoting events on social media can help provide exposure to our senior community.
If you’re able to do so, support local fundraisers and volunteer at senior events. Make a small gift basket. Anything you can do to help make their lives easier will help. It’s also important to always remind an older adult that someone is thinking about them.