More Congregate Diners, Uses Sought for Senior Center
Auburn Senior Center representatives want to increase attendance at the center for daily noon meals and see increased usage of the facility.
“We have one of the nicest senior centers. “I think we serve really good meals. The patrons believe that the food is excellent,” said Cathy Beutler, Auburn Senior Center manager.
The Auburn Senior Center, at Auburn City Hall, is not just a place to eat a noon meal. Many seniors come to the center for social fellowship, she said.
“The social aspect is important. For a lot of them, it’s the only time of the day they get out. Many people come as couples. They have a circle of friends that get them to keep coming. The elderly need to get out to stay active, mentally as well as physically,” Beutler said.
Ken McCormick, member of the board of the non-profit corporation which operates the center, said that the Senior Center meals are available to all seniors regardless of income. Meals are served at noon five days a week, excluding major holidays.
One of the board’s priorities is for current Senior Center patrons to be welcoming to newcomers.
“We need people to feel welcome and comfortable in coming,” McCormick said.
Great Increase in Meals on Wheels Recipients
While the number of Meals on Wheels recipients has increased dramatically, the number of patrons eating meals on site has diminished. Meals on Wheels are available to individuals with limited physical capacities which restrict them from attending the congregate meal site.
In December, there were 826 senior citizens who received Meals on Wheels while 585 meals were served at the center. There were 138 meals served Thursday, Dec. 22, the Christmas dinner. That included meals served at the center plus Meals on Wheels. The center was closed one day last month for the Christmas holiday.
McCormick said that the decrease in the number of seniors eating at the center is because of attrition which includes death, and individuals who have moved to assisted living and care centers.
“We need people to replace them,” he said.
About 17,000 meals were served by the Center staff during 2010. About 7,000 to 8,000 meals were delivered. An average of 30-35 meals were delivered and 40-45 meals were served on site.
Meals on Wheels are delivered by volunteers from church and civic organizations. Volunteers from various groups serve a month at a time. It takes two volunteers about one hour to deliver the meals.
“If the Meals on Wheels recipients are not home, we check with their children or law enforcement to make sure that they’re OK,” Beutler said.
Thursday is the day with the most meals served, she commented.
Several Special Days at the Center
There is a monthly birthday dinner at the center. There are also special days such as Bring a Friend and Bring a Pastor. Ice cream sundaes are served the second Thursday each month. Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners are served. The Christmas dinners bring the largest number of meals served, she said.
Special food items are available for seniors who are on restricted diets, such as diabetics.
Besides Auburn, Senior Center patrons have come from Johnson and a few have been Brownville residents.
McCormick said that some clubs meet and eat at the Senior Center. Beutler said that the Auburn Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors eat at the Senior Center on the first Thursday of each month.
Center Started in 1990s
The Auburn Senior Center started about the time that the current City Hall building was built in 1994. The Senior Center operated under management briefly with Southeast Nebraska Community Action before the present 501(c)(3) committee was organized in October 1995. Harvey Bergmann, Lee Casey and Maynard Rippe were the original directors. Current board members are: Marvin Gerdes, president; Richard Kumpf, treasurer; McCormick, secretary and Thelma Den, member. Beutler has managed the center for 12 years.
Beutler is in charge of all the paperwork and handles all rentals for the Senior Center. She plans menus, prepares meals and does all of the paperwork except paying bills, which are handled by the treasurer. Beutler also books all events at the Center. Except for one part-time cook’s helper, Beutler is the only paid employee. Everything else is done by volunteers. Besides delivering Meals on Wheels, that included kitchen help, the table announcer who says a prayer before the meal, those who clear tables after the meals and those who make change for patrons.
Funding for the center comes from multiple sources which includes contributions from patrons to help defray the cost of the meals; from Blue Rivers Area Agency on Aging, which is dependent upon federal funding; and from the City of Auburn for operating expenses and contributions. Some fundraisers are planned at the center this year, she said.
Blue Rivers Area Agency on Aging officials administer directly or contractually with 18 senior centers in Nemaha and seven other Southeast Nebraska counties. Officials also have affiliate relationships with two other senior centers.
Increased Activities Sought
Auburn city officials want to see increased use of the building.
“We want to get more activities, but we need people to do it. There are a lot of activities that we could do if the people just participated,” Beutler said.
Those include exercise class and a treadmill. Cards are played Tuesdays and Thursday evenings. Other activities in recent months have included children’s activities during the Christmas opening in November and a Home Alone dinner on Christmas Day.
“We encourage more people to participate so we could offer more activities,” Beutler said.