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Changes coming at Central Point Senior Center

While the pending sale of the Central Point Senior Center has posed more questions than answers for the people who use the facility, city officials are hopeful that upcoming changes will provide more accessible meal options for seniors in need.

City officials recently announced plans to sell the Second Street property to the Rogue Valley Council of Governments after board members for the nonprofit senior center declined a partnership offer with the senior-focused agency, which provides meals and other resources to senior and disabled people.

With RVCOG headquarters located adjacent to the Second Street location, and the agency currently using an ailing Central Point Grange Hall for home meal delivery operations, RVCOG officials were interested in the senior center building.

Members of the senior center and a small board have managed the city-owned site for decades, offering daily meals, activities and a small thrift shop.

City officials consulted with the senior center board last fall, proposing the seniors relinquish control of meal operations but maintain occupancy of the site for activities, and continue to run the thrift shop.

The center has run for decades on thrift shop proceeds, donations and $20 annual memberships from its 100-plus members. City Administrator Chris Clayton said the city was surprised by the board’s decision to dissolve the nonprofit instead of sharing the space.

“RVCOG approached us because, in other places they’ve partnered with senior centers, it has worked out very well. We said, ‘What if they do the meals and we have (the senior center) continue to volunteer and support that and continue to do social and recreational program like pinnacle and Bingo?’” Clayton said, noting that the senior center’s current meal price of $6 would be reduced by more than half under RVCOG.

“The RVCOG meals program is very good food, and they charge a $2.75 suggested donation. The big thing for us is that no one is turned away if they can’t afford to pay. The goal is to provide as much nutritious food to people in their homes, and at a community meal site, as possible. We want to help community members age in place for as long as possible.”

Members of the senior center board did not return calls from the Mail Tribune seeking comment. Board members issued a statement in a recent newsletter announcing they would cease operations after Feb. 26.

Ann Marie Alfrey, executive director of the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, said her agency was committed to continuing meals, activities and group meetings for the community “regardless of who owns the building.”

Due to funding parameters under the Older Americans Act, which helps to fund her agency’s meals program, Alfrey said its only restriction would have been that current volunteers could not continue cooking.

While Food & Friends meals are less “home-cooked” than what might currently be offered, Alfrey said the quality is good and pricing easier for seniors on limited budgets.

“I know they have been cooking for a long time, and they have a good following. We are following the federal nutrition standard, so it’s not quite the same as somebody coming in and cooking something up, but I think there are also a lot of seniors in the community who can’t afford to do $6 every day and are likely only coming in a few days a week to eat,” she said.

“There’s a little bit of rub that, ‘Yes, we’re following federal nutrition standards and you’re probably not going to get your fried chicken, but our meals are very good, and we do get a lot of compliments.”

Alfrey said volunteers are sorely needed.

“It was a little disappointing because what we were offering was a partnership, so they’d have still done their thrift center and kept all the proceeds and then helped us keep the activities going. At this point, we don’t have a lot of staff. They’re currently paying utilities and a staff person — we’d have taken those costs away and just taken over the meals.”

Longtime senior center member Joan West said she was surprised at the changes and had not been made aware of any changes prior to receiving the newsletter.

“It was a surprise in general that the building was going to be sold, but I was unaware that we were given any choice in the matter. All we got was a little notice that came out in the newsletter that the building is sold and that our little shop is going to be gone and there was nothing we could do about it,” West said, noting she was hopeful seniors could still utilize the facility for meals and socializing.

“What they need to do — and this is just my opinion — is they need to come and stand in front of all these people having their lunches there every day and tell them what the plans are. Tell us what’s changing and how it’s all going to work.”

Clayton and Alfrey said final details of the transfer of property were still being worked out.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.