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OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) is the recipient of a prestigious national award for its Oklahoma Aging Advocacy Leadership Academy (OAALA). The academy is sponsored by OKDHS Aging Services and the Choctaw Nation.
The National Association of States United for Aging and Disability (NASUAD) will honor the OAALA with its Excellence in Volunteer Services award on Sept. 12, 2012 at the NASUAD national conference in Washington, D.C.
"The initiative was designed to highlight successful state-run programs that are leading the way in the creative use of volunteers in the long term services and supports network," says Lance Robertson, Director of OKDHS Aging Services. "We all know the value of OAALA and the impact it has had on our local communities and the state over the past 13-plus years." Robertson says the program is so successful several other states are in the process of replicating the Oklahoma model.
Judy Leitner, OAALA founder and coordinator, says more than 300 Oklahomans have been trained as volunteer leaders and advocates on issues related to aging and disability. "OAALA brings together people from all walks of life, every education level and of the greatest diversity possible," says Leitner. "They truly become experienced change agents who know and understand the aging and disabled population. They know that funding issues still impact growth and know that the system must and can change for the better. They want to be an important part of that."
In order to represent a diverse population, participants for OAALA are chosen based on ethnic, cultural and economic backgrounds. They also represent a variety of religious faiths. Approximately 60 percent are baby boomers and 15 percent are veterans; 70 percent are female, 30 percent are male, and 15 percent are disabled. Native Americans comprise 25 percent of the participants, 10 percent are African American, 10 percent are Hispanic and five percent are Asian. The other half of the participants are white.
For more information about OAALA, contact OKDHS Aging Services at (405) 521-2281.