VALDOSTA -- Ashley House has been awarded a U.S. Housing and Urban Development grant to acquire a service coordinator.

Thomas Macholz, senior regional manager for The Benchmark Group, the company that owns Ashley House, said HUD awarded the senior citizen apartment complex a $203,000 grant, which will pay for an office, fringe benefits and other costs associated with bringing a service coordinator to the area for three years.

A service coordinator is used as a liaison between residents and agencies. The coordinator provides education to residents concerning programs they are eligible for and monitors services residents are already getting.

"This is a great thing for us because this will give residents the confidence they need to request the items they need," Macholz said. "A lot of elderly residents are afraid to ask for anything because they are afraid it will mean they will have to go to a nursing home, or they are intimidated by agencies."

Macholz said Ashley House was the only senior citizen living center that was awarded the grant, and one of a few in Georgia.

Serving as service coordinator is Brenda Tsavatewa-Lestrer, a service coordinator from Fitzgerald.

Macholz said Benchmark found out about the grant through literature about HUD. Ashley House can reapply for the grant, but if Ashley House is denied, Macholz said funding would be made available for the service coordinator position.

"Now that we have the position, we will continue it," he said. "We have a commitment to Ashley House, one that we take very seriously."

Ashley House, once the Daniel Ashley Hotel, accepts residents 62 and older and those citizens who are disabled. The youngest resident is 40, and the oldest is 97. Ashley House was built in the late 1920s, and was renovated for apartment living in the 1970s. In 1994, Benchmark bought the property.

Ashley House is a Section Eight facility, a set of requirements used by HUD to determine housing eligibility.

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