Angry Seniors at Senior Nutrition Program lunch in Bieber after change in management

Sept 2, 2005, Bieber CA

Copyright 2005

A shakeup in management of the Senior Lunch Program which is associated with the 50's Plus Club sparked heated debate at Friday's regular  lunch at the Bieber Memorial Hall. Seniors who have perceived threats of reduced services were greeted by 3 managers of Lassen Senior Services at their Friday lunch and were surprised that the site manager of Big Valley's senior services had been suddenly terminated (fired).  This follows the termination of one of the cooks a few days earlier.

Seniors who have been using the services were outraged and arguments, charges and counter charges dominated the normally quiet and friendly lunch.  Seniors were not satisfied by answers or explanations offered by the managers of Lassen Senior Services and the atmosphere felt just short of a fight as angry words were passed out. The managers were obviously not prepared for such a a reception.

Diane Grose, Executive Director of Lassen Senior Services Inc. showed up at the regular Friday lunch along with Jack Kessler, Chairman of the board and Arlene Friend, program/sites co-ordinator.  The regular Bieber manager of the Senior Lunch Progam, Francis Evans, was conspicuously absent as she was terminated at 11 30 AM this day.

Arlene Friend attempted to explain what was happening to the Senior Sevices in Bieber and this sparked a lot of anger amongst the seniors who come for the lunch.  This anger obviously caught the visitors from Lassen Senior Services off guard and an event just short of a shouting match took place.

Obviously not prepared for such a hostile atmosphere, Director Diane Grose was only willing to give Big Valley News a statement that the program's only interest is to provide quality services to the Seniors of Big Valley, essentially a non statement.  After all would we expect her to say that they are out to "screw us".  This editor hopes that a meaningful and informational statement will be given at a later date.  The most meaningful statement made during the visit was made by Jack Kessler when he angrily stated " don't run this program, we do!"

Lassen Senior Services Inc. called an "emergency meeting" with one days notice and the Big Valley Representative on the board, Marie Roberts and Harry Marsden were not able to attend because of the short notice and previous commitments.  As a result of this, they both were terminated from the board and Big Valley is left with no local representation.  The Big Valley Senior Site is now left with only one cook and one bus driver.


The 50 + club was formed 1975.  To qualify for Senior Services in an area, under regulations, we had to  show demonstrable base of support.  Lassen Counties Senior Service added Big Valley to their contract. contract for Big Valley began in 1978. The main thing of interest for seniors was transportation and we had bus service  before the nutrition center. When the nutrition site started, it was a catered site and had a site manager, and a bus driver and "green thumb" (a government program) payed for a kitchen help. Before senior services came to big valley, Lassen County granted 50+ club free use of a club room (no kitchen)  5 days a week.  The first site manager was Edna Hall and Marie Roberts took over in 1975. 

Explanation of events by Harry Marsden. ex member of Lassen Sr. Services Board and organizer of 5-'s + club:

On August 31, 2005 about 3pm Marie Roberts and Harry Marsden received a phone call from Arlene Friend, of Lassen Senior Services in Susanville, that there would be a emergency meeting in Susanville on September 1, 2005. Both of us were unable to attend because of lack of transportation and commitments

On September 2, 2005 about 11am, Jack Klessler, Arlene Friend and Diane Grose arrived at Vets Memorial Hall in Bieber. They proceed to inform Frances Evans that she was terminated and took her keys to the office and asked her to leave.

I was informed of this and went to the luncheon to make sure that all the equipment belonging to Big Valley  50 + club would not be removed from the office and informed Jack that if they wanted any equipment, phone, fax, copy machine etc they had to provide their own. All but a few items belong to 50+ club. I was assured that they would not remove any items from the office.

Diane Grose was stating that someone was starting rumors that changes would be made as far as the lunches and van trips. She did not state who was doing this. Then she stated that she was making changes in the monthly schedule.

Jack Kessler asked me to go to his vehicle and he gave me, Harry Marsden, a letter from Lassen Senior Service Board in Susanville, stating that I was removed from the Board of Directors. Also Jack had a letter from the Board of Directors for Marie Roberts. I do not know what grounds, because I did not attend the special meeting. I was told that I would be given that information, if I attended the next Board meeting, which I intend to do. Anyone can attend these meeting. I would encourage anyone who wants to, to attend the next meeting, to ride the van to Susanville. Or several go in their vehicles.

There were questions from people attending the lunch and I am not sure if their questions were answered. If you wish to reserve attendance for lunch and/ or have any questions, you are to call 257-2113 Susanville.

Harry Marsden

Explanation by Marie Roberts:

Subject:   News article on administration shake-up at Senior Center.

At the August meeting of the Lassen Senior Services Board, program director, Mrs. Grose stated that the Big Valley Senior Nutrition Site was over staffed.  She used the example of the Westwood Site that serves meals five days a week and has only one lady who does all the cooking, cleaning and bookwork by herself.  (editor's note:  Lassen County Senior Services which does no cooking or transportation has 5 members). The board directed Mrs. Grose to fax a letter explaining the decision.  (Not to immediately fire anyone.)  She instead called the Big Valley Site Manager and ordered her to fire one of the staff immediately.  This is not an ethical manner in which to handle the problem, and does not give people time to digest the situation or the job related consequences of doubling the work load of the remaining seniors on staff.  Mr. Marsden and Mrs. Roberts, being members of the Lassen Senior Services Board and having been at the meeting in question, advised  the Site Manager to hold off until she received the fax that Mrs. Grose was directed by the board to send.  In the mean time study the work patterns and see where the reduction should take place.  This little common courtesy instruction was received by Mrs. Grose as insubordination, and at an emergency meeting  called for Thursday, which neither Mrs. Roberts or Mr. Marsden could attend on such short notice, voted to end the association of both board members, and the site manager from Big Valley.  The meeting was called after Mrs. Grose received a copy of the open letter that we wrote to the Area Agency on Aging, as a concerned group whose local programs were being systematically cut and threatened i.e.  Bus hours cut, staff cut, instructed to isolate Seniors who need a little assistance to get around at the site, etc. etc.

As of this date the only staff to do the whole job are the cook and the bus driver.

Former member of the Board and retired Site Manager.

The open letter sent to Barbara Swanson Area Agency of Aging

August 24,2005 Bieber, Ca Barbara Swanson Executive Director PSA 2 Area Agency of Aging

Dear Ms Swanson; <> We are writing to you to address our concerns for the survival of the Senior programs in the Bieber (Big Valley) area.  We have had a very good program for over twenty years, but now we can not seem to do anything to suit the Lassen Senior Services director.  We seem to have become "The evil stepchild" since Mrs Grose came on board. Her first action was to try to fire everyone on staff here.  Mr Dahle,  Supervisor for our district, convinced her otherwise. It has been a conflict every since.  She has maligned the character of our Site advisers, and Board members, slashed our services and cut our personnel to the point that our staff are making noises about leaving. 

At the May and June LSS Board meetings, the financial reports were that we were within budget and everything was rosy.  When she came back to work, her first actions are to cut staff and transportation at Big Valley Site.  We all understand that the cost of fuel is causing havoc with the budget, but if it is hurting us, it is really hurting low income seniors.  Now is not the time to cut their services, it is the time to do fund raisers and pull together.

Our site has always shown an higher contribution per meal and transportation, than all the Lassen sites, except Doyle  who serve a catered meal once per week.    

The main service that our participants are concerned for is the transportation provided.  The extreme rurality of our area makes it very difficult if not impossible for our people to get to their medical specialists on a regular basis.   The lack of retail merchants in our area make it necessary to shop in the major business areas to get  prescriptions, clothing, and necessary household items, etc.    

We live 97 miles from Redding, and 93 miles from Klamath Falls.  That translates to a two hour drive straight through, and at least another hour picking up the riders who do not drive.   Every one who has traveled with Seniors know,  that is not going to happen. They need at least one,  possibly two,  potty breaks in that time, and for the prevention of blood clots, it is not advisable for them to sit that long without stretching their legs.   Knowing this, Mrs Grose has directed that our driver not put in more than ten hours for these trips.   We have always stressed,  appointments be made between 10 Am and noon and no shopping after three except for new prescriptions.   The strict adherence to these rules still does not allow the driver home in less than 10 hours.  This is not totally driving time, the driver does escort and assistance during the shopping, lunching time and sometimes acts as extra ears at the Dr office.  This time is fully legal driving time, because of the break while town errands are made   The issue is solely that Mrs Grose does not want to pay our driver overtime.  We have already  discontinued one trip per month to Redding   since Mrs. Grose came on, so the money should have been in the budget for these hours.    

The issue of being over staffed.  If we are to give seniors preference in our hiring positions, as encourage by the Older American Act, it behooves us to keep the duties of the job within the capabilities of Seniors.   As of this morning, the cook helper position has been eliminated, so the duties of the cook at our site, include the cleaning, shopping, cooking,  dishes, cleaning, and inventory management vendor reports, and menu planning .  Please note that cleaning is listed before cooking and after serving.  We, like most other sites,  share the kitchen with the community.  Every senior that has held that position has quit because the work load was too heavy, now we are asking the cook to do it along with her regular duties.

Last month we were looking at expanding the days we serve meals, our numbers were climbing, and things were good,.  This month we question if we will have the staff or confidence of the Seniors to continue what little services we have left.

We would like to suggest that the personnel and board in Lassen Senior Service get some needed education on the Older American Act as soon as possible.     As you can see, we have a problem.  Can you help us?

Sincerely Staff and participants of Big Valley Senior Nutrition Site.