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Senior center gets fit

From left, Rudella Anderson, Marlene Watson and Loraina Rinnon stretch a leg during a Hawaiian-themed ?Sit and Be Fit? exercise class Wednesday at the Central Point Senior Center. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli

Food and Friends has a month to find a new kitchen

Food and Friends has until July — to find another facility in which to cook meals for homebound seniors in Central Point.

Senior Center board members in March decided not to renew contracts for food service with Food and Friends, saying they thought they could provide better meals on site themselves. Food and Friends, operated by the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, will continue providing meals for homebound seniors from a different site.

Don Bruland, director of senior and disabled services for RVCOG, said a new site had not been found but some options were available.

As a backup, the City Council agreed last week to allow Food and Friends to operate out of the Third Street fire station during the summer. The old station serves as an alternative school the rest of the year.

All Food and Friends meal sites are currently shared facilities donated by communities that rely on the meal delivery program for seniors.

Bruland said he was hopeful a group in the community would be willing to share a kitchen facility. — — — — An exercise class at the long-troubled Central Point center is a sign of progress

CENTRAL POINT ' Dancing to the strains of a ukulele and slide guitar, about a dozen muumuu-clad and barefoot seniors stretched their legs, twirled their arms and wiggled their toes.

They were getting some exercise Wednesday as part of a National Senior Health and Fitness Day celebration during their Sit and Be Fit class at the Senior Center. But most important, they were having a good time.

Seeing everybody having fun and laughing and not feeling intimidated is refreshing, said the center's new director, Nikki McDowell.

The Sit and Be Fit class is one of several new activities helping revitalize the Second Avenue center after more than a year of dwindling attendance and internal strife.

I think this was great, said 93-year-old Rudella Anderson. It's been such a fun class. It's just not as fun to exercise at home when you're all by yourself. This gets us all out together to laugh and joke, and this helped the center, too.

McDowell said she was hopeful the center would stay on a positive track after more than a year of internal problems between volunteers and board members.

The center's director resigned, a new board was appointed and members decided to provide their own food service program.

McDowell took over as the director in March about the same time the board voted to end contracts with Food and Friends, a senior meal program run by the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.

McDowell said a brighter atmosphere, increased activity levels at the center and a different menu had quadrupled membership from three or four to at least 15.

There's been so much bad, that all of a sudden when you see people happy and having so much fun, it kind of sets you back, she said.

We have some really great volunteers helping us, and the community has really gotten behind us. I can only see it getting better and better.

The center was one of five Rogue Valley groups that answered Asante Senior Services' challenge to portray the theme, Be Active, Be Fit, Be Healthy as part of the national health and fitness day.

Each group received &

36;250 for its efforts. McDowell said the Central Point center would use the money for its new meal program.

Buffy Pollock is a free-lance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at .