By Kathryn LeBrasseur, Alexandria Senior Center.
Yay, team! A little over three years ago, a group of nine talented and caring individuals answered the challenge put forth in an editorial of the Echo Press. That challenge was that the Alexandria Senior Center needed new direction and new leadership. Support and funding reserves were about used up and support from community areas, such as the city of Alexandria was terminated.
Our center is unique in that it is owned and operated by the membership and thus it was doomed to close and be sold. There was no one to rescue it but a few who felt the need to save the dreams of those who came before. So, in November of 2013, nine people of various backgrounds were recruited to make up the Board of Directors. All promised to fulfill the demands of a three-year term. What a job they have done!
They have not done it alone. With the help of volunteers, a few foundations with local ties such as the Alexandria Area Community Foundation, Otto Bremer Foundation, Wedum Foundation, the Lakes Region Arts Council and the city of Alexandria, Alexandria Township and LaGrand Township and the Sentence to Serve program, plus financial gifts and donated services of many local businesses that also believe in the need and goals, all past bills have been paid off.
We replaced furnaces and air conditioning. It was necessary to upgrade the commercial kitchen and ADA accessible doors have been added. Extensive remodeling and upgrading of the electrical system, sound and lighting equipment have brought the facility up to a "state of the art" building. We now share this condominium facility of which we own 37 percent with the County HRA, and they too are upgrading their two-thirds.
Of course, we are always fundraising. Monthly expenses run about $7,500 a month, but we are meeting them. We have the federal nutrition program back and operating. About 100 home delivered meals a day plus 20-30 congregate meals are served each day. Membership has grown from 134 to 831! Several vital programs such as Free Tax Assistance and AARP Smart Driving are stabilized and serving our community. Social opportunities to prevent "isolation" for our older population are growing as we work together to enhance the Age Friendly Community!
I have had the privilege of serving as president of the Board for three years. I completed my three-year term. You may hear that I chose not to run for another three years. We need new blood and new ideas and we got it. But, you are not fortunate enough to have me disappear. I have been reflecting on the glory of this Board and accepting honors intended for all. Also, I enjoy expressing opinions and giving direction. So I am moving into a new role with the County Committee on Aging. That is the county-wide group that helped build the place originally to have a home base for senior services and programs. I had the privilege of working with the original groups and I made popcorn in some town every weekend. I could even do cotton candy!
Thanks, Echo Press, for the challenge! The future is filled with new challenges and we will meet them together.
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"In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.