Ordinarily, I shy away from becoming involved in political issues, but the situation of cutting off the senior center completely from the list of county partners became more than that. To an involved county citizen who uses and helps to support the facility, it becomes an issue concerning a specific group of people who are affected by the senior center presence.
First of all, it was an active county senior center functioning in an older “make do” building which was located where the parking lot is now.
This building was demolished and the group became housed in a new building built by Ecumen to become a senior living complex.
There are two completely separate entities in the building. One section includes the second and third floor as senior living apartments called “Maple Commons.” A senior center area covering a large share of the first floor allows the Board of Aging to operate as a place for senior functions as a vital part of the senior population for the surrounding area of Chisago County. This is made possible by a secured 30-year lease which allows the council of aging to use this area as the “Senior Center.”
In all the activities which are conducted there, congregate dining and preparing meals for other areas is managed by Catholic Charities out of St. Cloud. Meals are delivered to needing individuals in a wide area from this site.
The fact that the Board of Commissioners, as one commission stated at the meeting, and the Council on Aging is to insure a performance of nutrition programs to home-based congregate dining is to be commended and appreciated by all.
He added that “a new facility might be found if needed.”
But why [would we] want to find, or where would we find, a new site when we already had created a state-of-the-art facility for preparing and serving food right here in one building?
Instead we should be putting forth every effort of support to see that we insure the performance of the present site.
By the way, everyone is invited to attend a meal there any time to become acquainted with this wonderful facility.
The dining room is not all there is to the Senior Center. There is a continuous flow of activities each day, Monday through Friday, as well as in the evening for pre-arranged community gatherings and organization meetings, as well as special occasions on Saturday and Sundays.
The name of the whole facility is truly appropriate as “Chisago County Community Center,” but the County Board of Commissioners voted 3-2 to cut off all support for the next year.
What seems wrong about this is that some new partners were allotted “aid” – the very deserving aid to the Historical Society was cut some – but at least the board rightfully decided to keep supporting them.
But the senior center was cut completely!
One commissioner stated that the board needs to put money where “we are mandated to put it” and paying staff affiliated with a non-profit (alluding to Ecumen, the owner of the building) isn’t something he supports.
Our coordinator is not affiliated with the senior living complex.
She works completely for the senior concept.
Through all the activities, she very efficiently oversees and accommodates the needs of many seniors.
Some of the activities are exercises (which are available at reduced cost or free, giving a welcome gathering of common ground and health benefits), education forums, review drivers education, art classes, community groups, senior expos, senior fundraisers, health nurse and foot care.
People come from all over the county to participate.
According to the discussion that evening, they attributed their decision to cut us off because our coordinator did not give a complete financial report other than wages for the coordinator.
This is difficult to believe because she is so efficient in all her coordination of activities and she surely would have reported the expenses as there are many involved in maintaining of the office, as well as utilities and supplies and services such as garbage hauling.
There is a completely separate staff and coordinator for the Maple Commons senior living area.
As far as the commissioner’s remark that there are grants available that could be applied for, the coordinator is constantly looking for ways to raise money.
In recent years there are new causes and senior grants are less available.
One commissioner said he has concerns because there is no county oversight.
Why did they discontinue having a commissioner at the board meetings?
The same commissioner also stated that he is unsure what the county gets for its money.
The people who use the facility could tell him. It’s a coming together place for adding quality of life and a place to seek help for needs.
The county is the people, people who are taxpayers, in one form or another.
The purpose of this letter is to give a plea to any county citizen who is involved in any way to the mission of the senior center – to all those who rely on this place for an addition to their quality of living or to improve their health.
Let your commissioner know how you want this issue to be solved.
We know that these are tough economic times, but this issue is all about honesty and fairness.
Please get involved.
This commentary was submitted by a county life-time senior resident who appreciates, uses and helps support the Senior Center. She is in her 90s.