Few people know more about living precariously on a fixed income than senior citizens. An organization that has supported seniors in the North Fork area for decades is losing its main funding source and is considering all of its options for replacing it.
The Paonia Senior Center will see an annual decline in revenue of almost $5,000 after losing its contract with the Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) for use of a medical clinic located within the center. Senior Center volunteer Lynne Bear said that revenue pays utility bills and a portion of its biggest annual expense: insurance. Money from bake sales, private donations and annual donations from the Town of Paonia cover the remainder of their expenses, said Bear.
Other than those sources, "We don't have any income," said Bear. The center is very frugal with its money and has set money aside as reserve. "We figured some day this would happen," she said. "But we don't want to spend it all."
Construction of the roughly 1,000-square-foot clinic was funded by a grant and built by PACE money as an addition to the center. "The North Fork area is a very important part of the PACE community," said executive director CJ Simmers.
The clinic includes an examination room, bedroom, bathroom with handicap-accessible shower, storage, and a conference room, as well as a private entryway.
PACE, which provides services to seniors ages 55 and older in order to help them remain in their homes for as long as possible, contracts to use the clinic on Tuesdays and Thursdays. About eight months ago PACE made the decision to terminate the contract, said Simmers. It didn't make sense to continue it, since fewer than a dozen people were accessing the Paonia clinic, said Simmers. Those clients are now using the Eckert clinic, which serves between 60-70 seniors per week.
PACE is honoring its financial obligation to the center through the contract cycle ending July 1, said Simmers, and is ensuring that the facility will also remain with the Paonia Senior Center. The move "doesn't change anyone's ability to access PACE services," said Simmers.
The Paonia senior center dates back to the 1940s when meals were served at the old opera house on Second Street, said Bear, a nonagenarian and Paonia native. It moved to the current site on Third Street, a former liquor store, sometime around the 1970s. The center currently serves between 60-90 meals per week and delivers Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors.
Except for dietary aid Judy Ricker, the center runs entirely on volunteers. Meals are served every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to seniors 60 and over for a nominal charge of $3 (slightly more for others). "You can't beat that," said Bear.
In addition to helping with meals, running the office and keeping the place clean, volunteers also deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors three days a week. That also allows them to check in regularly on homebound residents, said Bear.
Bear is optimistic that the center will continue to operate, but future revenue depends on attracting a renter for the clinic. "Until we rent the space, I'm not sure where the money will come from," said Bear. The center would like find someone willing to help them with grant-writing, and can always use more volunteers. "I'm open to suggestions," said Bear. "We need to pay our utilities."