Senior Center reinstates programs, meals

Crawford County Commission on Aging officials continue to work on new building project after delays, cost increases
The Crawford County Commission on Aging and Senior Center is bringing back its normal programs  – including meals and fitness gatherings – as officials continue to work on the building project for a new senior center.
The Senior Center reopened to the public in June, and it is in the process of reinstating previous programming while also offering new classes.
As of August 2, the Senior Center is now open for lunch and dinner. Dinner is available on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Lunch is available Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Curbside pickup is available; call 989.348.7123 to make the arrangements.
The Crawford County Commission on Aging will be offering a variety of classes and programs – some new, some that were previously offered prior to the pandemic – including Zumba Gold, ballet, Wii Bowling Team, Walk in the Woods, table games (bridge on Mondays, euchre on Tuesdays, Pokeno on Thursdays, and pinochle on Fridays), Stretch to Fitness, ballroom dance, Geri-Fit, clogging, billiards, and more.
“Our main focus was getting all the table games back and our fitness activities rolling,” said Toby Neal, Senior Center Manager. “Having it be available like it was before COVID is huge. People want to congregate like they did before COVID. They miss that interaction.”
Neal said it’s important for seniors to stay fit because “people over 70 can lose up to one pound of muscle per month.”
“That’s just naturally happening unless you’re active,” Neal said.
Neal said participation was low for events early in the reopening process but it’s now increasing.
“We’re experiencing kind of a renewed energy moving forward. We have seen an uptick in attendance for activities,” Neal said. “It’s starting to feel like it’s okay for people to get back. Some of those COVID fears are going away.”
Crawford County Commission on Aging officials are asking visitors to wear a mask if they’re not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and use hand sanitizer provided at the entrance as they arrive at the Senior Center.
COA officials said it’s important for the Senior Center to continue with safety protocols to protect workers, volunteers, and visitors as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. In addition to masking and sanitization efforts, the center has spaced out its dining area and limited the number of seats at each table to provide distancing between diners.
“Since we opened June 14 we’ve had no issues related to COVID, which we are very thankful,” said Alice Snyder, Director of the Crawford County Commission on Aging. “The population we serve is the at-risk population for this virus, unfortunately.”
Many of the Senior Center’s fitness activities are scheduled to be held at the Commission on Aging’s new building at 4388 M-72 East. Snyder said the new building has garage doors that can be opened for better air circulation and it’s more spacious overall.
“It’s a much better space,” Neal said. “It gets people to our new destination.”
Senior Center officials have been working on securing a new, larger location for years. On Tuesday, March 10, 2020, Crawford County voters approved a bond proposal for a new senior center facility – through renovation of the building at 4388 M-72 East – by a vote of 2,235 to 1,059. The bond proposal will generate $3 million over the course of 20 years, according to COA officials. 
In late March of 2020, not long after the passage of the millage, statewide restrictions forced closure of many businesses and facilities, stalling the progress of the senior center project. During the pandemic, the cost of construction materials increased significantly, causing more delays.
Crawford County Commission on Aging officials said they had to reevaluate the building renovation project and try to find alternative sources of funding for some aspects of the venture to make up for the unanticipated spike in costs.
“We’re trying to get the project back up and running,” Snyder said.
Officials have had to delay sending the project for bids.
“Why put it out to bid when we know we can’t afford it?” Snyder said.
Senior Center officials are trying to generate money and other help for the project through grants and other means. They have had some success so far.
Snyder said the Allen Foundation provided a $268,000 grant for the new facility’s kitchen, most of which will go toward equipment. Snyder said the Senior Center plans to offer part of the new building for rental to the public, including the option for the center’s kitchen to provide catering, and officials are hoping the venture will be a “revenue stream” for the local Meals on Wheels program.
Snyder said Commission on Aging officials have had to remove some parts of the planned senior center renovation project and add them back in as they secure alternate funding sources. 
Snyder said McClain & Son – a local construction company – has agreed to donate material and labor for the center’s outdoor patio, allowing it to added back into the project, but COA officials are still trying to line up a donor to provide furniture for the patio.
Snyder said the Great Lakes Energy People Fund has provided a $4,000 grant for the new center’s exercise equipment, and a donor has agreed to provide a fireplace for the lobby, another part of the project that had been removed.
Commission on Aging officials are still trying to secure a $35,000 donation to build an overhang at the door to protect people being dropped off and picked up from weather elements.
“We’d really like to have that as part of our plan,” Snyder said.
Perhaps the biggest challenge will be securing a $350,000 donation for the new center’s gymnasium.
“We’re trying to generate revenue to have it the way we planned it,” Snyder said. 
Snyder said the Commission on Aging has a group that continues to pursue grants and other funding sources for the project.
“We’re trying to get the project funded back to what was approved by voters,” Snyder said. “We’re really working hard to make the project happen, even if it’s at a reduced level, without going back to the voters.”
“The voters did their part,” Neal said.
Anyone willing to donate to the effort can contact the Crawford County Commission on Aging and Senior Center at 989.348.7123.
Snyder said Senior Center officials are hoping to send the overall project for bids in March of 2022, break ground in May, and move in before the end of 2022, but it’s all “subject to change” based on the bid process and possible redesigns.
Commission on Aging officials said the efforts to bring back programs and offer new ones during the current reopening process are made possible through the work of many volunteers.
“So thankful for the volunteers,” Snyder said. “Like everyone else, staffing has been an issue for us.”
“We can’t do the things we need done without the volunteers. Everything that needs to be done, volunteers step up and get it done,” Neal said.

Crawford County Avalanche

Mailing Address
Box 490
Grayling, MI 49738

Phone: 989-348-6811
FAX: 989-348-6806

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