MARQUETTE - The video features local people telling their personal stories of how Marquette County Senior Providers? Network agencies have made a difference in their lives.
The message was received loud and clear by local legislators who attended the video's premiere Tuesday.
"We decided in June to start on it," said Lori Stephens-Brown, who work for AMCAB-Meals on Wheels. "We wanted to have something to share. We wanted to show what (the network) is working on. This is it."
Watching the video are, from left, State Sen. Michael Prusi, D-Ishpeming; State Rep. Mike Lahti, D-Hancock; Tom Baldini, who is aid to U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee; and State Rep. Steve Lindberg, D-Marquette. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Attending the premiere were state reps. Steven Lindberg and Mike Lahti; State Sen. Mike Prusi; and aides to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak and Sen. Carl Levin. They watched the video and had lunch with people representing the network's many agencies.
On the menu? The same lunch served to Marquette County seniors receiving Meals on Wheels Tuesday, including hot beef sandwiches, yams and fruit cups.
Also in attendance were the video's stars including the Ruuska family and its matriarch, 94-year-old Fannie, who still lives independently thanks to help from network agencies; Fred Taccolini, a Marquette resident who's caring for both his wife, who has Alzheimer's, and their special needs son at home; and Dixie Franklin, who served as interviewer.
The network has united a number of groups and agencies during the past year all who share a common problem: Diminishing funding and growing need for their services. Informal meetings have taken place one a month as agency representatives brainstormed on ways to provide the best possible services to local seniors.
The theme of the video, which was narrated by Carl Pellonpaa, is "they gave us our independence. We need to protect theirs."
The video, which is available for presentation to any local groups interested in watching it, is less than six minutes in length but packs an abundance of information in that time.
"The video turned out better than we dreamed," Stephens-Brown said. "It shows what the needs are and what a terrific group of providers this is. We have been working together to help seniors in our county."
Zoe Rudisill, a local woman who graduated from the University of Michigan, put the video together with guidance from a committee. Music was provided by Luke Guindon, while Franklin wrote the script.
"It was all volunteer work on the video," Stephens-Brown said. "It didn't cost a dime."
After the viewing, the group sat down to lunch. Each legislator or aide was joined at a table by representatives of the member agencies or video stars. Afterward, the legislators spoke on how the video affected them.
"We have to educate our young and take care of our older citizens," Lindberg said. "They are, after all, our greatest generation. This event makes me proud to be your representative."
Gov. Granholm has emphasized the importance of people working together in the community, said her aide, Ann Jousma-Miller.
"You people have done just that," Jousma-Miller said. "If she was here today she would be so proud of you."
Tom Baldini, Stupak's aide, said the video is an example of how people in the Upper Peninsula cooperate.
"Maybe that's because we know we have to," Baldini said, adding, "What I enjoy is that seniors have a way of coming up to you and saying exactly what they think."
Prusi, who joked "in 66 days I will be looking for a job" as he is not seeking any office this year, said: "These are the programs that matter.... Remember politicians should be judged not by what they promise you but what they pay off on."
Lahti said events like the premiere are important ones.
"Advocating to us like this shows them the face of what you do," he said. "What you have to do is continue to keep their feet to the fire."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.