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Senior center transitioning to county control

Programs for seniors at the Allie Bankston Edwards Center for Senior Citizens have grown significantly over the past several years and recent changes may allow for more growth after the county took control of the center. The senior center’s building and utilities were already paid for and maintained by the county and the senior center staff are now county employees. ’This is a positive move for Pike County and we are thrilled to be involved in the complete operation of the center,’ said county manager John Hanson. ‘We have a great staff and look forward to this transition. The Council on Aging and Three Rivers have done a great job through the years and we appreciate their support.’ The senior center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with lunch at 11:30 a.m. Meals and programs are for all seniors in the county who are 60 and older and the programs offered are not income-based. Transportation is provided at no cost to those who need it. In addition to a daily meal, seniors can take advantage of exercise classes, create art projects and hear from educational speakers on various topics each Monday. ’Our primary focus is nutrition through the meal we serve each day and our secondary focus is getting seniors out of their homes and into a fun, socialized environment,’ said senior center director Rhonda McDougal. ‘The change will not come as an additional expense to the county, as they currently cover building maintenance and utilities, and contribute to a multi county/state collaboration to provide daily transportation. State and federal funds cover meal expenses and personnel costs. The center must seek its own funding for daily activities and craft supplies. These are supported through private donations, grants, and fund raisers. Transportation for field trips is provided by state and federal funds as budgeting allows.’ The senior center’s facilities include a large multi-purpose room and cafeteria, kitchen, game room, an exercise room with several different donated workout machines, a library and computer room. There is also a burn pit area outside alongside the center’s community garden. When McDougal took over as director in Oct. 2011, around 8 seniors used the center every day and not all rooms were accessible to seniors. Since then, all the rooms have been organized for various uses by seniors and now around 25 to 28 seniors visit the center each day. An additional 34 clients are served Meals on Wheels each day. Regular events – such as A Matter of Balance exercises which strengthen core muscles and blood pressure checks each Thursday – are held and special trips and events are planned throughout the year. ’Our next trip will be to the Columbus Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus,’ said McDougal. ‘In October, we will have our first ever overnight trip. We will ride the SAM Shortline Excursion train to Plains, Ga., and tour Jimmy Carter’s boyhood home.’ For more on the senior center and programs offered, visit the center during daily hours or call 770-567-3857.

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