In my quest to highlight local exceptionalism I try to feature people who do more than they need to do. They contribute to our community in an often thankless, but incredibly important manner. These are doers. Some people talk, these people do. A good example of this can be found in our community advocates.
Community advocates are a rare breed and I have often wondered what drives them, so I asked one. Susan Noack replied with, “I’m a Senior Advocate.” And without a moment’s pause, she continues, “I advocate for Seniors who can’t always speak for themselves. I don’t want the spotlight. I want others to speak, I really do, but if they won’t, I will.”
After sitting down with her at her home turf, the Juanita Pohl Center, it didn’t take long to figure out that Susan Noack is truly a grassroots level advocate and does remarkable work in our Senior community. She’s made a difference. “We are creating change, slowly, and accomplishing a lot. We are making the Senior population more visible. For example, when the Post Office was going to close the main office on Tualatin Sherwood Road, we organized the protest that proved to be effective. That Post Office remains open.”
In addition, her team at Tualatin’s Aging Task Force, which she chairs, routinely meets with Tri-Met officials to arrange for better bus service for Seniors and successfully lobbied to extend day time hours for the bus line 96, offering express service to downtown Portland. Susan encourages Seniors to become advocates for local issues. “We’ve learned that we have a voice when we get motivated.”
The Aging Task Force group also meets with various staff from the city to work on housing, transit and safe streets and ADA improvements. They hear from outside sources and recognized experts from other organizations, such as AARP, on how to age in place. The task force as a group are advocates for more affordable housing choices and more services and resources in the community. “While I believe in and support all the issues the task force tackles, we do it as an ad hoc committee and I am its representative.”
According to Susan, roughly 25% of Tualatin’s population is over 55. And while many of our Seniors are aware of the Juanita Pohl Center, many others are not. The Juanita Pohl Center is the city of Tualatin’s Senior oriented activity center and the base for the Meals on Wheels People in our community.
According to Susan, “The Juanita Pohl Center should be the first place any Senior should visit in Tualatin. There are many exercise and fitness options, lunches every weekday, billiards, games, books, workshops like a French class, events all the time – just went to a great ‘lunch and learn’ about eye health recently. And last week there was a dinner group which discussed How to chat after 50.”
Susan wants to invite all Seniors to join in on the experience that she helps make so special for so many. “Lunches are a great place to start. Everybody is smiling. It gets loud. Tables are meant for 8, but more often we seat 10. Everybody cares. We take care of each other.”
In addition to her involvement with the Senior programs at the center, Susan volunteers a great deal of her time to our area’s Meals on Wheels People. “We fill a need. We made over 1,700 meals in March, and 966 of those were home delivery for those who lack the mobility to come to us. Unfortunately, for many it is their only real meal of the day, as well as their only human contact they might have within a given day.” The program relies on local volunteers to help prepare the meals, and many others to deliver the lunches to local people who need them, so naturally Susan has a hand in the success of that as well.
If all that is not enough, Susan writes a monthly column in Tualatin Life, promoting the work of Aging in Place. As she says, “We can age in our home, age in our community and age with each other.”
To say Susan’s got a little bit of fire would be an understatement. At 72 she volunteers an enormous amount of time to something she believes in, treating it as a full-time job. I asked her why she volunteered so much, and she said, “It makes me feel good. I use my brain, I use my skillset. I’m up and out of the house every day. I love having some place to be by 8am. I meet great people, and hopefully I make a difference.”
Well it’s no secret that Susan Noack does makes a huge difference to our Senior community. I found it most telling that when I asked if we could take a group photo of her with any members she might know, and she said with a smile, “Oh, I know them all.”
Jonathan Crane owns Integrity Staffing in Tualatin and is the Past Publisher of Tualatin Life. He’s lived in Tualatin for 19 years. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.