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Bob Odell
State Senator
District 8

September 26, 2010

Senator Odell is Chairman of  the Ways and Means Committee, and member of the Energy, Environment and Economic Development Committee;  Finance Committee; Citizens Trade Policy Commission; State Park System Advisory Council; and Comprehensive Cancer Plan Oversight Board.

Senate District 8 towns: Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Claremont, Gilsum, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury, Newport, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity, Walpole, Washington and Westmoreland.


It was a pure coincidence that a couple of days after receiving my invitation to the Newport Senior Center 1st Annual Open House that I pulled from a drawer a printed letter addressed to friends and residents of Newport, N.H. That letter, dated May 1988, pitched the need for the community to give money so the old IGA building on Main Street could be used for a Senior Citizens’ Center.

I also remember a personal visit from Larry Zullo sometime in 1989 shortly after I had purchased Holiday Travel Agency. Larry must have used the fund-raising letter as he asked me for a contribution. The amount was a bit over my budget but Larry pointed out that I could pay over three years.

Larry and Rowena Daniels were co-chairs of the successful building fund drive for a new seniors’ center. As a professional fund-raiser most of my career, I look back at the sales material they used and how they highlighted the kick-off gift of $100,000 from Kaarle Lehtinen. They did a very good job and as I toured the senior center last week, I could see what the fund-raisers promised 22 years ago has been achieved.

Attached to Larry and Rowena’s fund-raising letter was a picture I had clipped from the Argus Champion titled "Two-fisted taker" showing Larry accepting contributions from the Knights of Columbus and Aubrey Wentzell. With Larry in the photograph are Harry Keller, Sumner Huntington, Tom Maley and Peter Sartwell who was representing Mr. Wentzell.

Who would know two decades ago that I would be using that old letter and newspaper clipping as a reference point for my weekly article?

September is National Senior Center Month so it was appropriate for the Newport Senior Center to host their open house for the community. As you moved through the 23 stops on the tour, a visitor found the activities envisioned 22 years ago. There is a daily meal offered Monday through Friday, basic health screenings (blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol) and exercise programs including Tai-Chi. Plus, there are cribbage, pitch and other card games along with bowling, bingo, computer lessons and much, much more.

Every senior should stop by the center, or other centers in the area, and see what is offered. With a professional staff and active volunteers, the Newport Senior Center is a welcoming place with plenty to do for any senior.

Sullivan County Nutrition Services is part of the Center’s program, too. Sullivan County Nutrition Services operates Meals On Wheels delivering meals each weekday to over 800 older citizens of Sullivan County. Not only do recipients receive a hot, nutritious meal, drivers are trained to check on the health and safety situation in each home. That is important as more than half the people served live alone at an average age of 74.

The nutrition program also includes the dining room at the Newport Senior Center along with similar dining facilities in Claremont at the Earl M. Bourdon Centre and in Charlestown at the Charlestown Community Room at 26 Railroad Square. These meals are served in what is referred to as congregate setting and draws many seniors to all three locations. These are good places to see old friends and meet new ones and share a bit of time socializing.

* * *

Senior advocacy groups are at work, too, in this election season. AARP is asking candidates to complete its survey by next Monday or else. By email the associate state director writes: "Candidates who have not responded will be listed (in the AARP voter guide) with a ‘Candidate chose not to respond’" notation carrying the implication that a candidate’s electability will be threatened if they do not answer the questionnaire.

The email reads a little later, "Statistically, more than 90% of AARP New Hampshire members vote. With over 225,000 members in the Granite State, our members often represent 200,000 votes in statewide general elections." Makes it sound again like not responding will lead to sure defeat.

Not knowing what the economic situation will be next June when we vote on the budget nor what competing needs will face the state or what the budget the Governor proposes next February will entail, how can a candidate truthfully answer questions like, "Do you support or oppose increasing funding for home and community based services?" Does that question ask that we spend one dollar more or one million dollars more?

Another one: "Do you support or oppose the use of volunteer programs to help communities provide vital services to those in need?" Now, what kind of candidate would oppose volunteers working at places like the Newport Senior Center? All of us, of course, support volunteers and volunteer programs. To me, it makes the question and the predictable answers unhelpful to voters who use the AARP voter guide.

Each election season legislative candidates get a couple of dozen surveys focused on the issues of importance to the sponsoring organization. Most of them are so elementary it is hard to see how they can be useful. And many come from peripheral organizations, some from out-of-state groups; they look more like tools for fund-raising for the sponsors than serious surveys.

Candidates should be careful in responding to surveys. Voters, too, should be cautious in using "voter guides" coming from advocacy groups that are looking for support or money for their own members or constituencies.


Bob Odell
State Senator
New Hampshire State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301-4951

Telephone:  603-271-6733


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