By Stephen Smoot
On June 27, 1973, the organization now known as Pendleton Senior and Family Services delivered its first meals. According to Janice Lantz, the current executive director, this served as the starting point for five decades of faithful service to the senior citizens of Pendleton County and their families.
A half century later, senior center patrons, staff, and supporters came together to remember 50 years of a job well done and expectations for an even brighter future.
Lantz noted “lots of change has occurred over the past 50 years, some good, some not so good.”
The “good” included a recitation of what the center has done to support seniors in Pendleton County. This includes approximately 24,000 “nutritious meals” served, more than 55,000 miles driven, and much more. “Looking into the future,” Lantz said, “we would like to expand our services,” and “bridge the gap between generations.”
She then gave “a big shout out” to the sponsors of the day’s celebration, including Grant Memorial Hospice, Grant Memorial Hospital, Potomac Highlands Guild, and Pilgrim’s Pride.
Lantz then turned to the slate of speakers who came to address the overflowing audience. Gene McConnell, former board president for senior services, shared that “today, anything that endures for 50 years is certainly worthy of our recognition.”
McConnell expressed concern over the demographic changes in Pendleton County and how they affect seniors and their ability to live independently. “Young people are moving away,” he explained, “to the detriment of the family support structure.” McConnell warned that “in some cases, it ceases to exist.”
In-home services, such as Meals on Wheels, are vital, he said, “true value lies in the fact that someone is visiting these folks on a regular basis and maintains a community connection.” Such services help seniors continue to live independently at home, where most have a better opportunity to live healthier, longer, and more enjoyable lives.
Lynn Phillips then stepped to the front of the room. He has served as the official representative in the region for Governors Bob Wise, Joe Manchin, Earl Ray Tomblin, and now Jim Justice. He shared that he was happy to do his part to “make this celebration a happy time.”
Phillips then related that he started representing the Governor’s office at the Franklin Senior Center in 2001, making him a regular attendee for almost half of the years of the organization’s existence. He then stated that “Governor Justice . . . knows how important these programs are to Pendleton County and the entire State of West Virginia.”
He then read a letter from the Governor, who stated “I have no doubt this outstanding organization will continue to make a difference.”
Richard Dennis, who represents the office of West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, came up next to deliver more kind words, starting with “this is one of the nicest centers that I go to in seven counties.”
Dennis came to praise the center, but also deliver a warning about scams involving gift cards. He urged that “if someone asks you for gift cards, hang up, walk away, or do what you need to do,” adding that “they’re trying to take you for everything that you have.”
Also in attendance was Elias Coop-Gonzales, first year member of the House of Delegates, who shared that “it was an honor to be present at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Pendleton County senior center. Ensuring that seniors have the support they need is one of my top legislative priorities; especially in rural places like Pendleton, where resources are stretched very thin.”
Attendees enjoyed a meal, celebratory cakes, and the musical stylings of Joe Crites.