"I think you do what you can while you can," said Stella Nash, a church attendant, registered nutritionist and nutritionist, and a member of Senior Planet Colorado.
I spoke to her about Zoom last week after receiving the honor of becoming one of the Denver Urban Spectrum 2020 African Americans who make a difference. She saw me as a person who cannot help but make a difference – her enthusiasm is contagious and her commitment to the common good is lifelong. But if there was a passage in our conversation, it was the value she attaches to education. Stella, born in Goulde, Arkansas, received her Bachelor of Science in dietetics from the University of Arkansas and moved to New York City to work as a nutritionist. She earned her Masters in Nutrition Education from NYU. She later returned to Arkansas to work as a nutritionist at the university's Cooperative Extension Service. However, she found that the rural context presented different challenges to the urban environment she faced in New York. So Stella spent a year studying rural sociology at Penn State.
She puts her own twist on the Kafka saying: "With education, it is better to have and not to need than to need and not to have."
After a long career Stella was full of honors and retired back. But she's not finished learning. She is currently reading The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Executives at All Levels, by Michael Watkins; she recently completed The Lost Art of Listening and The New Jim Crow. Just last summer, Stella was at a community gathering in Denver when a woman announced that a new technology program was coming to Colorado ̵
Since the opening of the Senior Planet Center last September, Stella has already taken four courses and has become an important member and supporter of the program. She is also closely associated with other initiatives that promote the health and well-being of her community: she sits on the board of LiveWell Colorado and the board of Montbello 20/20, a registered neighborhood organization; She volunteers with the Colorado Black Health Collaborative. and she is a member of Delta Dears, the over 60-year-old arm of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority that focuses on sisterhood, ministry, and science. However, when she spoke about her price profile with the Denver Urban Spectrum she highlighted her work, which promoted the topic of Senior Planet as her most notable contribution last year, and said, "The Next Great Challenge [for the community] uses technology. “
I connected to Stella to learn more about her impressive accomplishments in a service life. I also have to ask her why she is so passionate about Senior Planet.
"I like the refreshments," she said with a laugh. "The coffee is great."
Senior Planet: You were born and raised in Arkansas and were educated in Arkansas, New York, Chicago and Pennsylvania. How did you end up in Colorado?
Stella: My husband was an engineer and moved to Colorado in 1978 to work. I worked as a nutritionist at the Arkansas Department of Education and thought I wasn't ready to go yet, so he should see if he really liked it there first . Finally, the University of Arkansas helped me find a job at Colorado State University as the regulator for the Denver County Extension Service. Then a job as a nutritionist for the USDA Food and Nutrition Service was opened at the Mountain Plains Regional Office and I got this job.
Tell us about your work there.
There were seven regional offices; This included 10 states and 30 tribal organizations. We have worked with the SNAP program, WIC services, school meal programs, child and adult care programs, food distribution on reservations, the commodity supplemental food program for aging and nutrition education for people of all ages. We encouraged people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and I helped provide training and technical support for the feeding programs. In 1990 I became regional director of the Mountain Plains region.
You probably have to make a big impact on this role.
Well, all of the nutrition guidelines issued by the The federal government must pass the regional offices every few years. That is why I helped shape the MyPlate guidelines currently in use. In 2005, the Secretary of State for Agriculture and another person from the DC office sent me to represent the United States at the International Food Congress in South Africa. We presented eight sessions on the impact of our programs. I was also selected to exhibit at the World Food Prize, which is like the Nobel Prize in Agriculture. In 2016 I received the Rocky Mountain Eagle Award for outstanding customer service and in 2017 I retired.
Well earned! How did you get to Senior Planet?
I want to know what's going on in my community, so I go to many community gatherings in Denver. I heard about it there. I always bring a pen and paper to these meetings, and when the woman made the announcement, she rattled off a phone number and I wrote it down. I called and spoke to Clarence [the Senior Planet Program Lead]. They weren't open yet, but he let me know that if they were, he would contact me. And he did it! I showed up and registered easily. I was really impressed.
I took over Computer Basics, iPad Essentials, Money Matters and Social Media. I was also on the zoom call and talked to other seniors in South Africa.
Tell me about the work you do to inform others about Senior Planet. Why is it so important to you?
If you can get what you need, especially if it's free – that really touched me. When I work with Senior Planet in this way, I have the opportunity not only to share but also to give back in a way that I wanted but could not do when I was employed. I can use what I learn outside of class – anything, even small things I thought I knew. I work with a group that empowers young men to become more independent and I was allowed to use Zoom with them. I have put everything into practice. But even if I know how to do something if the other people in my – I think you can call it – my "sphere of influence" don't do this, I can't do much with this knowledge.
I believe in it I know from some groups in which I participate that people over the age of 60 urgently need to learn how to use their smartphones and so on. Some of them say my child gave it to me and I don't know how to use it . This is the information age and people need to be informed. And when you're excited about something, you can get other people excited about it.
I tell everyone about it. After I went there, I emailed my sisterhood, the Delta Dears, the Golden Age Club, and other groups that I encourage to come. I worked with friends to distribute maps around my neighborhood and to inform people about the center. I also need to speak on channel 7 for the Colorado Gives Day. I want people to know that they should just come if there is something like Senior Planet that is free and you sat around and said: I wish I knew how to do that . I tell people there is something out there for them. And when people leave, they find that they not only learn, but also have the opportunity to make contacts and meet new people.
If you don't work in your community, what do you want? to do?
I love to read – I read so many books. I am currently reading The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. I also crochet and knit. I go to the center for the performing arts, I go to museums, I go to concerts. I play a lot of scrabble in my neighborhood. Do you know what I'm going to do if I drop this call? I'm going to Scrabble.
I understand that you have to travel pretty far from home to the Senior Planet.
On a good day, it takes me about an hour through the city.
What makes the trip worth it?
All classes were good. The teachers are great. Everyone there is so friendly and helpful. But really, I just like the atmosphere of the place. There is great social isolation in older adults. This is like a meeting place where you can sit near a computer and hang out with someone. You meet new people – I like to listen and I will learn what they need, who they are. When you get there, you just feel at home.