The three senior centers in Jackson County are much more than buildings. They are a source of entertainment, socialization, nutrition, health care, and much more.
But without the physical structures, none of these services would be available. Simply put, buildings must be maintained.
On the June 9 primary election ballot, the Jackson County Commission on Aging has a levy requesting funds to assist with that maintenance.
Chanda Engle, executive director of the Commission on Aging, said the roofs are the biggest concern at this point. The centers at Ravenswood and Sandyville will be addressed first.
“We’re trying to be proactive,” Engle said. “We don’t want to wait for the repairs to be an emergency. We need to be setting funds aside now.”
If approved by 60 percent of the voters, the levy would raise an estimated $61,632 yearly, with $246,528 accumulated for the four-year term.
With the age of the buildings and equipment, Engle said other issues may face the commission.
“The heating and cooling units at two of the centers are either original to the buildings or not adequate for the need,” she said. “We recently replaced two units at the Ripley facility and now we figure the others are not far behind. The Ripley center is 30 years old while the other two are about 20.”
Engle said there had been plans to publicize the levy with signs and other means. But with the COVID-19 crisis, priorities shifted.
“We’ve put aside everything to concentrate on serving our people,” she said. “Even though, like many other places, we’re closed for gatherings, we’re still doing our best to offer the support and care our senior citizens need.”
Meals on Wheels is a very important part of that need.
“With the health crisis facing our county, good nutrition is vital,” Engle said. “Our cook, Christina Stewart, is still preparing meals and we’re still delivering to our shut-ins. And each center has meals that those over age 60 can drive by and get. We’re following all the safety guidelines.”
The food delivery service has far-reaching impact on those who are unable to leave their homes. There have been times when a serious health issues has been detected when the delivery is made.
“Our drivers have found people on the floor and have made the calls to get the help needed,” Engle stated. “One other important benefit is conversation. Sometimes this delivery is the only contact these seniors have. It shows someone cares.”
In-home care is an area people don’t often realize is provided by the Commission on Aging.
“We work with the Veterans Administration and Medicaid to help those who qualify,” Engle said. “We also have two other programs. Lighthouse helps those who need a sliding scale for billing because they don’t qualify for Medicaid, but don’t make enough to afford private care. The Fair program helps give Alzheimer caregivers a break.”
Perhaps the most important effect the Ripley, Ravenswood, and Sandyville Senior Centers make in the lives of those over 60 is socialization.
“I’ve always been active,” said Hazel Brammer of Ravenswood. “But during this self-isolation period we’ve all been facing, I’ve been thinking more about the seniors in the area. I realize I need people. I think I’ll be going to the senior center here every day after this is all over.”
Shireene Matheny of Ripley agrees.
“I started going for the socialization,” she said. “I had no idea that there were so many activities. The EMS even comes and takes our blood pressure once a month.”
All three centers are dedicated to offering a variety of activities.
“Depending on the center, there are exercise classes, quilting instruction, yoga, crafts, and puzzles,” Engle said. “Each center has something unique to offer.”
But it still comes down to the building. None of these activities, none of the meals, none of the stimulation can happen if the building needs aren’t addressed.
“We apply for grants and we fundraise,” Engle said. “We rent our facilities to outside groups for a reasonable cost. And we currently get $15,000 from the county commission that helps us match grants and do small projects. We hope that monetary support continues if the levy passes. The rest of our funding comes from the West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services.”
The impact on taxes will be minimal said Engle.
“This levy will make such a tiny impact on people’s taxes,” she said. “But it’ll make a mighty impact on these three centers.”
Fiscal Year 2019
Meals at Centers – 21,743
Meals on Wheels – 23,535
Transportation trips – 5,795
In-home care – 16,524 hours
Levy rate for every $10,000 assessed valuation
Class 1: 0.14 cents
Class II: 0.26 cents
Class III: 0.56 cents