Knights hold benefit fundraiser

BALDWIN — The Lake County Knight of Columbus will host the Senior Center Open Golf Tournament on July 29 at Marquette Trails Golf Club. Proceeds from the event will go directly to support the St. Ann’s Lake County Senior Service Center of Baldwin. For more details on the tournament, call Chris at (231) 898-2450.

The local Senior Center is the standard by which all other Senior Meals centers in the State of Michigan are measured against. Through the generosity of a caring community, it became a model of how to provide seniors with more than just a meal. It has grown in the last 38 years from its simple beginning as a place for senior citizens to get at least one hot meal a day, into a provider of not only meals but also services that allow our seniors to live independently and with dignity.

The St. Ann’s Senior Center serves all of Lake County from its main facility in Baldwin. Hot meals are served daily there and are also sent to remote sites in Peacock, Luther, Idlewild and Oakwood Manor Apartments. In the year 2010, 29,493 home delivered meals were provided to 147 seniors and 18,338 hot meals were provided at meal sites. The year 2011 promises to see those numbers increase.

For seniors who cannot get out and about, home delivered meals are essential and the person delivering the meals takes the opportunity to “check in” with the senior and offer a little bit of social life to their day. They are more than just delivery people; they are a connection to a network of hellp and services available to these seniors.

The Senior Service Center also offers home chore services for those seniors who cannot take care of house cleaning, yard work and snow shoveling themselves, along with transportation to medical facilities for special treatments or medical exams when they would have no way of getting there themselves. In 2010 67 seniors were provided with transportation for medical appointments amounting to 969 trips. Again, 2011 is on a pace to match or exceed that number.

The seniors need the services provided but it seems to be the companionship that is really the most valuable part of the services. Everyone feels better when they know someone cares enough to take the time to listen. A full-time outreach worker is on staff to help seniors with questions and applying for government entitlement programs along with navigating the paperwork for Medicare/Medicaid.

Funding for the Senior Service Center is through the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan. They determine which agencies receive the funding according to proposals sent in every three years and past history for the last funding period on how funds were used. Some funding also is received through the Senior Millage, which helps pay for the home-chore, meals and some transportation costs. There have been no increases in the centers funds for the last eight years. In fact, there have been some funding cuts which presented difficult management problems in meeting rising employment wages and food costs. The center also receives donations from outside groups like the Blessing of the Bikes, the Knights of Columbus Golf Outing and other institutions that help in providing services and covering some basic costs. Without these outside donations some services to seniors would have to be cut.

The main site in Baldwin, as well as the remote sites, provides many different social opportunities for the seniors in addition to a nutritious meal. Bingo, exercise machines, and the Wii bowling league are just a few of the programs offered on a regular basis to keep seniors active. When seniors participate in these programs they earn points that can be exchanged for merchandise from the on-site “Store” where a variety of items from clothing to tools can be exchanged for their points.

One of the highlights for many seniors are trips to places they would not normally be able to see. The Senior Center staff has organized tour for seniors that have included Branson, Mo., Washington, D.C., Atlantic City, New York and an upcoming trip to Hawaii. These trips are very popular with the seniors not only for the attraction of the place they’re visiting, but for the company of a group of people they are comfortable with and a price they can afford.

Recently the Senior Center has added a “Market Basket” meals program where qualifying seniors are given a large basket of food to help them stretch their budgets. There are strict controls on the program but with their food necessity provided for, they can concentrate on solving some of the financial difficulties they are experiencing.

St. Ann’s Lake County Senior Services is most of all a community charitable organization that relies on both state funding and the generosity of the community. Without community involvement it would be a struggle to maintain the current level of services for senior citizens. Those wishing to help support the center can contribute directly to the Senior Center by calling Director, Shelly Shafer at (231) 745-7201 or by contributing to or participating in the upcoming Senior Center Open Golf Tournament to be held on July 29 at Marquette Trails Golf Course. All proceeds from this event will go directly to the support of the Senior Center. For more information on the Golf Outing, call Chris at (231) 898-2450.