"It has really given us self-esteem to be able to work. At our age, there are a lot of people who don't want us." Nadeen Sorensen.
Richard Fairall, 61, a former meat-cutter from Los Angeles, is spending his golden years cleaning up the Uinta National Forest campgrounds, and he couldn't be happier.Fairall is one of 35 senior citizens working for the U.S. Forest Service under a special program designed by the Department of Labor.
In 1933 Congress organized the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to provide work and job training for unemployed young men in conserving and developing the nation's natural resources.
Now, more than 50 years later, some of these same men and women who have little or no income are returning to help maintain those natural resources through the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP).
For Lorin Trinnaman, a retired worker from Geneva Steel, the work is just what he needed. A welder by trade, Trinnaman helps as a fix-it man at the maintenance grounds in Pleasant Grove and at the various campsites throughout the forest.
These senior employees are hired through the Uinta National Forest based on their age and financial need. An enrollee must be no less than 55 years of age and their income not exceed the low income standard established by the Department of Labor. Enrollees must meet these requirements each year.
Founded Nov. 28, 1975, as the Older American Community Service Employment Act by the Department of Labor, SCSEP provides many local residents the opportunity to use their previous work training and skills to help maintain campgrounds and other park facilities while earning a supplemental wage.
"We have a lot of challenging work," Fairall said. "The cleanup crews walk forest roads doing anything from picking up debris to painting signs."
The jobs provide up to 1,300 hours a year of employment for each the retirees. These hours are generally worked from mid-March through the end of November.
The program itself was formulated to help the older worker restore confidence and work skills and to help with outside projects according to Loyal Clark, public relations officer for the forest.
Nadeen Sorensen, 55, the youngest member of the crew, feels her job and the Forest Service has given her a new lease on life. She, unlike many of her fellow workers, helps with the clerical needs of the Pleasant Grove District office.
"I love it. I answer phones and screen calls, type, file, handle the mail and the copy machine. During the summer months I'll answer CB radio calls," she said. "It has really given us self-esteem to be able to work. At our age, there are a lot of people who don't want us."
Fairall often travels hundreds of miles a week to help maintain the beauty of the forest for the numerous summer campers, and he wouldn't mind continue doing this type of work for a long as possible.
"I love the outdoors and the fellows I work with," he said. "I haven't enjoyed any other work more than this."
Trinnaman also expressed his enthusiasm for the seniors program. "It's not too bad and it's not that hard." Next June he will turn 62 and go on full retirement, which will give him more income than what the program allows an employee to make. If he could have his way though, he would stay on helping in the forest.
For these seniors the program has been successful. All three have learned to develop a deeper love for the outdoors and for the natural resources the Uinta Forest offers. They have shared their concern that many campers don't really appreciate the work these seniors must do to make the campgrounds a pleasant place to stay.
"I feel the public should be aware of the campgrounds and take care of their garbage," Sorensen said. "They should be more considerate of the tax monies that go to fix the camp grounds."
Both Fairall and Trinnaman echo her sentiments. "For those that like to use the facilities, they should take pride in keeping them clean."