News-Sun photo by CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY Naomi Sutton, Juanita Daniels, Dorothy Wesolek and Naomi Collins (front to back) enjoy a meal and a laugh every week-day at the Nu-Hope Senior Center in Avon Park.
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published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Nu-Hope grateful for county funding
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
AVON PARK -- Walking into the Nu-Hope senior center at 114 E. Main Street, is like walking into a party in progress. These are people who haven't given in to the aches and inconveniences of old age. Instead they gather to talk, play bingo, do arts and crafts and laugh.
"(The center) gives you life," said A. J. Jesus. "Otherwise, you'd be home looking at four walls."
Bea Helton lives in a mobile home park. She said she has good neighbors, but all of them work, so she is isolated during the day. "Being able to come here, and be around other people keeps me active," she said.
Bob Dolan, now a regular, stumbled across the center when he got lost trying to find the tax collector's office. Poking his head in the door to ask directions -- the center's entrance is at a right angle to Main Street, between the tax collector and City Hall -- Dolan saw a model railroad partially set up on a big table in the back of the room. An avid model railroad buff, he was immediately hooked. Fortunately for him, he is a senior citizen, so he has been coming back ever since working on completing the two train layout. Other members of the group help by painting the miniature stores, houses and trees.
Monday, the center smelled delicious, the air filled with the aroma of meat loaf and mushroom gravy with Brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes on the side. That's because the center feeds the body as well as the mind. Every week day there is a hot, well-balanced lunch.
Ingra Gardner, Nu-Hope's executive director, pointed out it is never easy to cook for one, especially when a person has arthritic fingers or a new hip. Many elderly no longer drive, so shopping for ingredients is as difficult as whisking the eggs, or lifting a hot pan out of the oven.
In another out-reach program, Gardner said, Nu-Hope partners with local hospitals, providing 14 days of meals for older individuals just getting out of the hospital. "Who wants to cook when they are still recovering from a hospital visit?" she said.
It is exactly these kinds of situations that led the federal government to pass the Community Care for Elderly Act in 1973. The goal is to keep people in their homes, instead of having to live in a nursing home.
The act places the responsibility on counties to fulfill the mandates of the act.
Counties may choose one of two options: Provide services itself, or partner with a providing agency.
In 1980, Gardner said, Highlands County and Nu-Hope entered into that kind of partnership. Nu-Hope not only operates senior centers and provides meals throughout Highlands -- including the Meals on Wheels program for shut-ins -- it recruits volunteers and trains them.
The county would face tremendous costs if Nu-Hope stopped its programs, Gardner said, adding there is an additional benefit to the county since Nu-Hope receives grants that provide $10 for every local dollar spent.
In the past the county commission has allotted $50,000 towards the agency's operational costs every fiscal year.
This year the commission was considering cutting the allocation out of the budget altogether. When it learned about the federal mandates, however, the commission adjusted its decision, and allocated $29,500.
"We're grateful," said Gardner.
Louise Bocane, 72, a client, put it more strongly. "I thank the county for considering the elderly and for not throwing us under the bus."
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