About three weeks ago, the future of Goessel’s AGAPE Senior Center seemed bleak, but after two successful fundraising events in September and early October, along with the addition of a new manager, things are looking up.
Glendene Schmidt, the center’s board secretary, said the loss of their cook, the turnover in managers and losing their board chair because of illness, did cause concern, but at the moment the center is stable.
“Elaine Goertzen was our chair and involved with the board for more than 20 years,” she said, adding that everyone was grateful for her help and service on the board.
Part of the problem as to why the center is without a cook was because the meal count was low.
How centers operate
“A lot of people don’t understand how senior centers operate,” Schmidt said.
She said North Central—Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging in Manhattan does the nutrition program.
“They hire a manager, cook and buy the food (for the senior centers),” she said.
The Manhattan agency also sets the price for how much meals are.
“All the money from the meals served goes back to the area agency (in Manhattan),” she said.
Another part of the equation, Schmidt said, is the building where the meals are served, the utilities and the insurance.
“Then there is a board and site council to manage the facility and activities,” she said.
Volunteers, donations vital
The Goessel Senior Center has no income, which is why fundraising events are so important to the center’s continued success, she said.
In addition to fundraising events, the only other ways the center receives revenue is renting the facility for family gatherings or, in one case, a Goessel church rents the building on Sundays.
It’s been a struggle, she said, with property insurance at $1,500, the need for money to maintain the facility and paying utilities.
“With no income to speak of, we keep doing fundraising events (to defray our expenses),” Schmidt said.
Another help for the center is the Marion County Department on Aging and its coordinator, Gayla Ratzlaff.
“Gayla is our county coordinator,” she said, “and she provides us with programs on Medicare and other activities.”
The most pressing concern right now is the need for a cook.
“We need to get our meal numbers up first—whether it’s Meals on Wheels deliveries, people picking meals up or dine-in,” she said.
The meal count averages in the low 20s right now, she said.
Keeping meal count up
What Schmidt said concerns her and others is keeping the meal numbers higher so that people who are homebound, just out of the hospital or need a hot meal will have that service available.
“When these people need those meals, they are here for them and we want it to continue,” she said.
In the meantime, Peabody’s senior center cook, Kim Nellans, has been preparing meals in their facility and drivers from Goessel have been making the 50-mile round trip to get the food back
“Once the food arrives, people need to check the temperature of the food, others need to set up delivery and pickups and volunteers need to be there for dine-in,” she said.
The Hillsboro Senior Center is looking at taking over the meal preparation from Peabody, but there still exists a concern as winter approaches.
“One problem the center will have soon is winter driving unless a cook is hired,” she said.
Not many of the volunteers are willing to make the trip to Peabody or Hillsboro when the roads get snow-packed or icy.
Schmidt also wanted to thank Nellans for her willingness to cook the extra meals to help Goessel’s facility in these difficult, but promising times.
“We have an excellent manager (Jenny Girard) and we are all feeling more positive about our situation,” she said.
Schmidt said she believes that if more people understood how senior centers operate, they might want to think about having a meal, volunteering or donating money to keep the facility there for those who need it now and in the future.
Anyone willing to volunteer time at the center or donate money to help defray expenses is encouraged to call Girard at 620-367-2275.