Hart Ford
Hart Ford

Caring as a career

50 years of helping seniors

2023 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Crawford County Commission on Aging (COA).

The Director of COA, Alice Snyder, sits at a desk covered with tasks to be done overlooking the front door of the Lawndale Campus. When she talks about those who contributed to the agency before her, noticeable emotion and passion is present. You can tell this job is personal as much as it is professional for Alice. She keeps her head down working hard to secure grants, communicate needs, and do all the paperwork necessary. She looks ahead to a new building renovation, and the ability to do more for citizens who are often vulnerable and whose quality of life would benefit from a little help.

Just down the hall, a volunteer in a small office stacked with files makes reassurance calls to homebound senior citizens. Other volunteers are busy completing various tasks for area seniors including coordinating meals or rides, arranging for free legal consultations, and helping with insurance.

The staff also schedules a nurse that offers foot care once a month, activities for engagement, loanable medical equipment, and homemakers that assist in small daily tasks and repairs. “Anything to serve the elders in our community and to help them live independently or with slight assistance is our goal”, Alice says.

Running on a skeleton crew of employees, it is a quiet miracle what is accomplished.

Few fully know the impact that the COA has, but Alice and her team do, they live and breathe it every day.

In 2022, the Commission on Aging served 32% of those 60 and older living in its service area, approximately 1,270 people served. An average of 42 meals per day or 524 meals per month were served in the onsite cafeteria or delivered via the Meals on Wheels program. All in total, 40,937 meals were provided in 2022. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

COA mission statement: To Advocate and promote the well-being and independence of all older adults in Crawford County, and it is a mission that viably lives on with great assistance from the community.

4,153 seniors took advantage of fitness programs, and 1,963 seniors participated in other offered programs fostering community and socialization. Crawford County citizens 60 plus can receive personal care services, light housekeeping and minor home repairs, and their caregivers can request respite. All services are offered to seniors by donation and are largely funded by millages, grants, and private donations, with only 6% of operating costs met by participant donations.


The Commission on Aging was started in 1973 in Grayling, in a building that used to house an auto shop. Originally the space was converted to create a dial-a-ride system home office. Over time it was expanded to include space for a kitchen and meals, activities, and planning how to assist area senior citizens. Eventually Dial-a-ride and the COA were split, and the building now offers housing services.

Alice, originally from Indiana, joined the COA in June 2004. It was one week after moving to Grayling from Oregon on Memorial Day weekend.

Alice learned from her Mom Judy’s example, always “looking after” older adults in the community. As a child, she would go with her mom to visit people in nursing homes, and she spent a lot of time with her grandparents listening to old stories that she loved.

Now, after 19 years of service, Alice’s main work beyond daily operations is to see the renovation of their new building acquired for expansion of the COA. “If anything is to be my legacy, it will be to see that building renovated to serve our seniors. I’ve made it my mission.” And indeed, she has.

Alice is always actively seeking grants on the local, state, and federal level, working to secure doable bids for construction. In a post covid, supply-chain-rising-cost world, she must nurture relationships with essential volunteers. Alice is embedded in most of the actions to sustain and grow what is offered, with fund raising actions and new plans, it seems as though COA runs in her blood.

Alice, her husband Mark, and two children were instrumental in making sure things happen. Mark is a longtime volunteer who has served in almost every role needed at the COA since they moved to town.

The community spoke a vote of confidence in 2018 when they chose the Commission on Aging for the Chamber Organization of the Year, a new award that they were the first to be honored with. Later, again a vote of confidence when a millage was approved to secure a new, larger building.

After acquiring the new M-72 campus, despite the effects of covid on gathering, the COA has managed to add new fitness programs to its lineup. In 2022 pickle ball was added, Zumba classes were expanded, and a Silver Sneakers walking program was implemented. Evidence based programs like A Matter of Balance, Personal Action Toward Health (PATH), Tai Chi for Arthritis, AARP Drivers Safety, Stress Less with Mindfulness, Geri-Fit and Walk with Ease have been added.

Bids are currently out for construction to renovate this space to meet needs, and Alice is hopeful and determined to break ground in April of this year. It wouldn’t be surprising to see her out there with a shovel herself. If there is a way to make it happen, Alice will find it.

Alice said, “the move into the new building will allow us to meet needs for better parking, the ability to offer an expanded kitchen with walk in coolers, larger updated restrooms, a fitness room, and a meeting space that can be rented with optional catering that can be offered.”

Listening to Alice share what is ahead and how it will impact our community, service minded vision is clearly a talent that has been fostered in her time at the agency.

Looking ahead at this year’s celebrations, Alice makes a call for community contribution. “There were great leaders and volunteers before me, and we want to hear stories, see pictures, and know about their impact.”

Former Director Laura Gould was instrumental in the establishment of the COA and not enough is known about her. Alice explains, “we would love for our communities to read this and share information and experiences with us so that we can include the memories and significance of her, and others, contributions.”

Undoubtedly, something larger than one person is at work at the Crawford County Commission on Aging, and Alice is humble about her part in it. “I just want to see our work continue and for that new building to be put into use and our services expand” she shares. Time has shown that thousands of people will benefit from just that happening.

The groundbreaking will be the pinnacle in Alice’s dedication to the Commission on Aging. You can help her and the COA celebrate all that has been done over the last 50 years by sharing your contributions in story, picture, or experience.

Alice can be reached at 989-348-7123 or via email at director@crawfordCOA.org.

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