When an elderly couple from a small town in Carbon County told Retired Senior Volunteer Program coordinator Jean Zimmerman they had little food, no way to get to doctors' appointments and needed help paying their heating bills, she knew exactly what to do.

Zimmerman brought them into the RSVP office, asked them to fill out a questionnaire. Their answers to the questions revealed a life of quiet poverty.

'I don't know what they were living on," she said. "They were living on air."

Zimmerman then ran the couple's information through a computer program called BenefitsCheckUp.

The program found they were entitled to at least 21 services and benefits, including help with heating aid, food stamps, prescription discounts and public transportation. To arrange a BenefitsCheckUp, call (610) 377-2021 or (570) 427-4343.

Zimmerman told of the couple's plight and the happy ending at a meeting Thursday of the Interagency Council of Carbon County. The council brings together human service agencies, ranging from the Area Agency on Aging to the CONCERN treatment center for troubled boys to Head Start.

The BenefitsCheckUp program, a service of the National Council on Aging, is free, fast and confidential, Zimmerman said. The program includes 1,550 public and private benefits programs throughout the United States, including health care, prescription drug assistance, heating and energy assistance, legal services, housing assistance, house repair, caregiver support, veteran's services, property tax programs and nutrition programs.

There is no risk of breach of privacy; no personal information, such as your telephone number, Social Security number, name or address, is ever used on the Internet. the program does require basic information about monthly expenses and income, prescriptions and your ZIP code.

In other matters Thursday, Area Agency on Aging director Cheri Santore said she expects to hire several part-time Senior Center managers. The job involves coordinating activities and serving lunches. Applicants must have a valid Pennsylvania driver's license.

The agency is also seeking a full-time registered nurse for community health care. For more information on either position, call (610) 824-7830.