In these times of belt tightening, is escaping the budget crunch largely unscathed – at least so far.
Walking through the door, the main change seniors will see differently in 2012 is smaller portions in the Monday through Friday lunches, said senior services manager Sue Hilberg. Few other noticeable changes will take place next year, she predicts.
One looming concern for the center, however, is its aging van.
“Our current vehicle is frail and elderly and approaching, if not surpassing, 150,000 miles at the moment. We need to replace it and we don’t have funds in the budget,” said Hilberg.
The center’s supply budget, which includes funds for food, was reduced by $2,500 in 2011 and these funds are not slated to be returned in the 2012 budget.
“For the most part, the budget remains intact,” said city administrator Don Morrison. “…We had talked about the possibility of having to eliminate a Friday or Monday lunch.”
No lunches had to be cut and, in fact, the overall Senior Center budget for 2012 will be slightly larger than the 2011 budget. An additional $5,000 brings the allotment for the center to $334,000. Most of that increase is due to rising insurance premium costs for the center’s five employees, said Morrison.
“I can’t speak highly enough about city and how they manage the funding to make the pain as minimal as possible,” said Hilberg, noting that while the overall budget is higher, the center’s supply budget remains lower.
Hilberg said the seniors attending the center already are aware that the center may soon be offering smaller lunch portions. Morrison added that donations for lunches cover much of this program’s cost.
The lunches are offered for a suggested donation of $5 for people younger than 55 and $3 for people 55 and older. However, if a senior cannot afford the suggested donation he will not go hungry, Hilberg said.
“Everyone who walks through the door eats,” she said. On average, the center receives $2.50 per meal served.
Hilberg said that, in addition to city funds, the center relies heavily on donations and fund-raising. The nonprofit Bonney Lake Area Citizens Center Advisory Board does a significant amount of the fund-raising to supplement the center’s supply budget, such as with Wednesday and .
This year, the senior center experienced some belt-tightening measures, such as eliminating a program to send birthday cards to seniors and reducing a subsidy for foot care that benefits many Bonney Lake area seniors, said Sherry Creson, an advisory board member. Raising enough funds to continue such programs is important, Creson said, adding she hopes enough money comes in next year to continue the foot care and other programs.
Dorothy Dominguez, advisory board president, also is hopeful that the board will bring in enough funds to pay for a new van.
Hilberg estimates it will cost $65,000 to $70,000 to replace the handicap-accessible vehicle. The advisory board is conducting an ongoing fund-raiser, and thus far has banked $1,500. Hilberg said people can make donations of any size to the van fund at the center.
Offering the van service five days a week free of charge is important because it enables seniors who otherwise would be stuck at home to come to the center, get a nutritious meal and socialize.
Seniors who get out and socialize live longer and are healthier and happier, Hilberg said.
“Living at home alone with your cat all day long, it’s not a healthy life,” she said. “Just getting them in here -- that’s a huge, huge bonus. You have to continue to be part of life.”
“It’s really important because the center gives so much to these seniors.… It’s good for the senior to be active instead of just staying home,” said Dominguez, 87, who has been attending the center for 23 years.
Dominguez added that families these days are so busy with juggling jobs and children that there sometimes isn’t much time for them to connect with the seniors in their lives. The relationships seniors form at the center fill this gap.
“It’s like a second family,” she said.
If you go
The Bonney Lake Senior Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Volunteer assistance and donations are always welcome.
Adult Only Bingo is every Wednesday at 1 p.m. Community Bingo is every Friday night from 7 to 9 p.m. Children younger than 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and actively play bingo.