Seniors launch membership drive

Published on Thu, Mar 8, 2001 by Soren Velice

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Seniors launch membership drive

By Soren Velice

In order to help pay for programs such as weekday lunches and meals-on-wheels, the Blaine Senior Center is conducting its annual membership drive.

On February 28, Whatcom County Parks and Recreation’s director of senior services Rob Bunnett and nutrition project director Pam Riley told seniors enjoying their lunch at the center about the drive. Citing declining government funding, Bunnett said the drives are necessary to pay kitchen staff, buy TVs, VCRs and kitchen equipment and continue the health and nutrition programs at the county’s eight senior centers.

“If we just relied on money we get from the government, we’d have to limit participation in the program,” Bunnett said. “Many programs throughout the state have to wait; in Whatcom county, we’ve done more ourselves to raise money locally so there aren’t waiting lists.” He said since the end of November, the fund drive has raised over $40,000 from 1,025 individuals and organizations including $2,140 from Blaine residents; the St. Luke’s Foundation will match the funds with about $20,000. Bunnett said he hopes to raise another $10,000 by summer. He said the average individual donation is about $25.

Riley told the audience just how important those donations are for the centers. “We get 40 percent from the federal government for what we need to run the nutrition program,” she said. “A lot of the money comes from what you put into the can when you come for lunch; the only reason we can serve as many people as we do is citizens’ financial commitment to having the nutrition program in the centers.”

Riley and Blaine Senior Center manager Judy Van Brocklin said besides feeding seniors, the lunch programs are valuable in other ways. “Having the nutrition program allows people to socialize and meet new people,” Riley said, “and meals on wheels allows that for someone that’s home-bound.” “Keeping seniors in their homes – that’s the main point of the center,” Van Brocklin said. “In the last year, we lost 22 people in this community between 87 and 101 that passed away in their own homes.”

Toni Peller, a volunteer at the center, said it provides a lot of other services, such as information on legal assistance and medication, buses to hospitals, tai chi, aerobics, chair exercises and a new weight room. “If it wasn’t for these programs, a lot of these people would be sitting at home, which isn’t good,” she said.

Individual contributions aren’t the only donations that keep the center’s programs afloat; Van Brocklin said Cost Cutter donates most of the produce for lunches, and the Boeing Foundation paid for the $32,520 weight room. “The Boeing Foundation came up for a site visit,” she said, “and Trav Skallman probably sold them on it. He said ‘we’re not trying to run marathons, we just want to get out of our beds and chairs.’”

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