LEMOORE — Some members of the Lemoore Senior Citizens Center think the center should be offering more to its members, and they intend to shake things up a bit by running to be elected to the center’s board of directors.
“We feel the Senior Center should be the seniors’ home away from home,” said member Marge Marsh, who answered with a resounding “no” when asked if she felt the center was like her own home away from home now.
Marsh, Carol Burkhart and Patty Robbins will be running against incumbents Richard Rea, Judy Griffith and Nadine Morton. Rea has been on the center’s board for five years and has been the president for the last three years.
The three women running against the incumbents already have a list of over 20 goals they would like to see for the senior center, should they win. Some of the goals include providing computers at the center, health screenings, holding weekend events and seminars on topics of interest for seniors.
Rea said he’s running again because he has a passion for the center and has worked hard the last few years to keep it going. He said budget cuts had to made over the years, but for the most part the center is “holding its own” as far as income is concerned.
“Sometimes it’s a little scary, but, we’re still hanging in there,” Rea said.
The center receives no help from the city or the state, Rea said, and most of its income comes from bingo night, firework sales, yard sales and small private donations from time to time. He said most people don’t realize what it takes to keep the center running.
Rea said he’s at the center almost every day, sometimes even on the weekend, to do repair work on the center himself to help save money.
“It takes a lot to keep everything going,” Rea said. “It’s a big job, but I love it and I enjoy it.”
Marsh and Burkhart said the only thing the center has going for it is bingo on Wednesday nights. Other than that, they said the center is only open for lunch to the seniors on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the price of $4 a day.
Marsh said the center used to be open for lunch Monday through Thursday, but only a handful of people would show up on Mondays and Wednesdays, and it was not cost effective to remain open those days. Rea said between 25 and 35 people get lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The meals were actually $5 until recently when Leprino Foods Co. gave the center a grant to help pay for the meals, Rea said. He said the center makes no profit on the lunches because everything goes to make more meals.
Marsh and Burkhart said the meals they receive, made by a local caterer, are not of the nutritional value that they believe seniors need. They said they used to get bigger portions of salads and fruit.
“These are seniors, they need an everyday balanced diet,” Marsh said. “Right now, we don’t really have that.”
Marsh said most seniors can go get a cheaper and bigger meal at any fast food restaurant and get what they want, instead of settling for a meal the center provides.
Rea said he is actively exploring other options, like Meals on Wheels, to provide meals of more nutritional value at a cheaper price to the seniors. He said he would love to get back to serving lunch four or five days a week.
Marsh said the center has not been up-to-par for about a decade, when the center had a lot of volunteers and membership was high. Now, she said there are only a few volunteers and membership has gone down.
Rea said there are 123 members, which is more or less the same amount as past years, and every member only has to pay a $5 yearlong membership fee.
If money wasn’t an issue, Rea said of course he would love to have more senior activities or be able to offer trips, but it’s not always that easy. He said every time someone comes to him with an idea, he is always open, but nothing ever seems to materialize like he’d want it to.
One thing Rea is looking forward to is the repair work that should be starting on both senior center buildings next month. In October 2014, the center received a Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for rehabilitation of its facilities, but a few hiccups caused work to be delayed for years. A bid for the work was approved by the Lemoore City Council just this month and work has to be completed by the end of October.
The main building — where Wednesday night bingo is played — will be getting roof repairs, new air conditioning and heating units, energy efficient lighting and new paint. The nutrition building will also get a new roof and be upgraded to be more energy efficient. Everything, including the parking lots, will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, will feature automatic opening doors for those who are in wheelchairs and the center will also get an upgraded fire suppression system.
When the main building is repaired, Rea said the center will not only be able to receive more revenue by renting the building out for functions and parties, but the amount of money needed to pay into maintaining the building should be less, as well.
The most repair work will be on the main building, because that would bring in the most revenue from rent, but Marsh said the roof on the nutrition building is in dire need of repair and should be the priority. She said when it rained, they had to set buckets out to catch all of the leaking water from the ceiling.
Burkhart said if she were to get voted onto the board, the first thing she would like to do is establish the building as a cooling center for seniors to go to if they don’t have air conditioning in their homes.
Marsh said she would also like to see the center open every day from 7 a.m. to at least 5 p.m. Right now, the center closes at around 1 p.m. and she said the time frame severely hinders the activities they could be doing.
Burkhart and Marsh said there is no shortage of activity ideas they could implement at the center, and they plan on talking to other local senior centers to learn what more they could be doing.
First and foremost, they want to get membership numbers up and they want to be more "aggressive" in renting the buildings. The more rent, the more money they could use to add activities.
“This facility is grossly underused,” Burkhart said, adding she would do anything to keep the seniors who are at the center for the day entertained, including playing cards or other games. “We want this to be the place to go.”
“You either get out and socialize, or you sit at home and look at four walls,” Marsh said. “It’s going to be a learning curve, but I think we can do it.”
The Lemoore Senior Citizens Center board of directors election will take place on Tuesday.