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Senior centers need volunteers

With the average age of Americans continuing to move upward, along with food and medicine costs rising as well, there’s never been a time when senior centers have been more needed by the nation’s aging population.

Unfortunately, it’s coming at a time when the centers themselves are facing serious threats to their very survival as well.

With federal and state budget cuts, along with the increasing difficulty in finding volunteers who aren’t senior adults themselves, senior centers in St. Francois County are no different than those found in other parts of the country.

At the Sept. 18 county commission meeting, Associate Commissioner Patrick Mullins announced financial outlays approved by the board to the county’s four senior centers. Per their request, the Bismarck, Bonne Terre and Farmington centers each received $25,000. Park Hills was awarded $15,000.

Afterward he offered his appreciation for the directors who are tasked with providing services to senior adults in the Parkland.

“Hats off to the directors of our senior centers,” said Mullins who also sits as commission representative on the county’s Senior Citizen’s Board. “You’ve got Holly Buxton with Park Hills, Mona Yates with Farmington, Betty Jellinek with Bismarck and Cher Robinson with Bonne Terre. These directors are constantly facing uphill battles with the funding. This is a huge, huge, portion to their budget.

“The problem they’re having is the number of volunteers at their centers. They’ve got a large amount of homebound patients. One of the board members, Mike Glore, he travels, and I think he delivers 300 and something meals a week in his vehicle. This is at his expense too. This is volunteer work. They are in constant need of volunteers. This is in response to back in the mid-90s — a 5 cent property tax per every $100 in assessed value was added and established in that era. This does a lot of good for the senior centers.”

Jellinek was grateful for the money provided by the senior board and agreed wholeheartedly with Mullins regarding the increased difficulty centers are having in finding volunteers nowadays.

“It’s not just with the senior centers — it’s with all the other organizations,” she said. “It seems like every organization out there is looking for volunteers and there just isn’t any. We use volunteers for meal delivery, desk workers, cleaning, maintenance — you name it.”

According to Jellinek, the Bismarck Senior Center runs two meal routes in town each day.

“There’s around 65 or 70 on those,” she said. “We have some that carry out and then there’s those who eat at the center. We probably prepare around 125 meals a day. I’m having to use employees as well as myself to do the meal routes.”

Jellinek said the senior centers can use anyone who volunteers to run a meal route as long as they aren’t court-ordered community service workers.

“I can use them in here to clean or do any kind of maintenance jobs they’re capable of doing,” she said. “They do have to pass a background check and have a valid driver’s license. We have two vehicles that the center owns that we allow them to use.”

Asked if there were other things needed by the county senior centers on a regular basis, Jellinek said, “Always money! It’s still kind of questionable. It depends upon the federal government’s budget and that hasn’t been passed yet.

“Right now, if we have a piece of equipment that goes down — as you know, commercial equipment is not cheap — we have to pull it out of somewhere in our budget, which means something else is going to suffer.”

The directors at the other senior centers expressed the same need for volunteers in their location. Yates at the Farmington center said she’d just received word from a man that his wife is having some physical issues and they won’t be able to volunteer for a while.

“When that happens, we have to find somebody else who can fill in until they are ready and able to help out again,” Yates said. “We could really use some food delivery volunteers right now.

Park Hills Director Buxton said she has been blessed through the years with great volunteers.

“A lot of our volunteers have worked with me for years and I’m thankful to have them,” she said. “Still, we’re always looking for volunteers and always like hearing from people who want to help out.”

Bonne Terre Director Robinson also agreed that the search for volunteers never ends.

“We need as many as we can get,” she said. “Volunteers are always lacking, always needed and always appreciated.”

“It seems like every organization out there is looking for volunteers and there just isn’t any.” — Betty Jellinek, Bismarck Senior Center

The four senior centers in St. Francois County provide a place where older adults can enjoy a meal, visit with friends and take part in activities that stimulate their minds and muscles. For those who can't leave their house or apartment, volunteers are needed to deliver meals to their doorstep so they can keep physically strong and nutritionally sound.

The four senior centers in St. Francois County provide a place where older adults can enjoy a meal, visit with friends and take part in activities that stimulate their minds and muscles. For those who can’t leave their house or apartment, volunteers are needed to deliver meals to their doorstep so they can keep physically strong and nutritionally sound.

Bismarck Senior Center Director Betty Jellinek is always looking for volunteers, as well as people willing to make donations to help keep the center afloat. Here, she accepts a donation from VFW Post 6947 member Mike Greer.

Bismarck Senior Center Director Betty Jellinek is always looking for volunteers, as well as people willing to make donations to help keep the center afloat. Here, she accepts a donation from VFW Post 6947 member Mike Greer.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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