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Will O'Neill Support The Senior Center?

Aug 24, 2022 (0)

Golden Age Center - A meeting was held last week to talk about the struggles facing the center in keeping it's doors open in the future.

The community room was packed at the Golden Age Center last Wednesday, Aug. 17, with people concerned about the center's fate in lieu of changing times and if the center can handle those changes with inflation and dwindling attendance.

Connie Cooper with the Northeast Agency on Aging, the Golden Age Center board members and 50-plus citizens filled the center looking to find answers to why O'Neill's Senior Center is struggling.

The Golden Age Center has been a part of O'Neill since the early 1980s and has served the community by providing low-cost meals to the elderly and a place to gather and socialize. The center is not owned by the City of O'Neill and is run by a board of O'Neill citizens. It receives funding from the Northeast Agency on Aging.

The Northeast Agency on Aging pays the center $3.05 for meals served in the center and $3.55 for those meals delivered, with more meals served, the more money the center receives in funding. 

"Gross cost to put on a meal at the center is $8.34, so you have to contribute or do fund-raising to make up the difference. For in-house to break even, you need $5.29 for in-house congregate meals and for delivery you need $4.79 to break even. The contributions are good in O'Neill.

Now the center serves 10 meals in-house and 26 to-go meals on wheels and 10 through health and human services daily.

Due to low numbers of serving from 2022 to 2023, there will be $3,000 less contributed from the agency because of the low numbers. If the center serves more the agency will reimburse them more. O'Neill only uses about $6,700 of funding. That is low compared to other centers our size; O'Neill should be getting $20 to $30 thousand a year in funding.

The center also could be taking advantage of supportive services which range from health screenings to seminars on insurance and Medicaid or Medicare. O'Neill only uses or gets about $20,000 a year from these services. The center could be earning around $80,000 to $90,000 a year from activities like this," said Cooper.

"A lot of other facilities rely on other outside activities other than just providing meals. Supportive services provided to the elderly can also bridge gaps in funding not being filled by just meals. 

They are cutting the bottom line by purchasing foodstuffs, which is already something the Golden Age Center does well.

Nobody stays, participants go home. If people would stay and participate, O'Neill would be eligible to use those funds.

"The agency looks at three things to keep a center going. Number one is food costs. So raw food costs should be $3.17 and you guys get your supplies for $3.28, so pretty close considering where you guys are. Minutes per meal for commercial kitchen labor is about eight minutes per meal. The prep time allowed by the agency is 12 minutes because of home cooking prep time. The center's time for a home-cooked meal is 6.05 minutes. 

The gross cost allowed by the agency for people under 60 is $9.89. For the Golden Age Center it is $8.34 which is lower than the area average.

So to keep up the center's cost donating or fund-raising will have to happen.

  The difference is to keep up for 2023; the center would have to do $90,000 a year of fund-raising or about $7,500 a month.

"Will O'Neill community support the senior center? More people through the door and fund-raising will help and that's why the meeting was held.

Cooper asked the crowd for volunteers to be on a committee to help with the problem of what can be done to support the senior center.

"There are a lot of people who are eligible but feel they aren't old enough to go to the senior center or don't want to be with the old people," said Cooper.

"Times have changed. The aging population doesn't do things like the past generations. We don't want to hang around and socialize as much. Maybe it's because we live at a faster pace than previous generations. O'Neill has been blessed with two assisted living facilities as well. Those people that took advantage of the center in the 80s and '90s are gone, and the next generation went to assisted living and is having the needs serviced by the center taken care of by assisted living facilities," said Don Baker.

The Senior Center faces many hurdles and obstacles to stay alive. Whether they can take advantage of increased supportive services and increase their daily meals or find donors willing to make the financial donations to keep the center open served is yet to be seen.

"This is a beautiful place and does wonderful things. I would hope that O'Neill would wrap its arms around the facility and make it its own," said board member Dr. Richard Fitch.


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