By Ammie Ruddle
The North Fork Senior Center, a resource for families and seniors, will be closing its doors on Sept 30. Until then all services at the site will continue.
More than 20 people, including Janice Lantz, the executive director of the Pendleton Senior and Family Services Inc., attended the meeting Aug. 17 to learn the status of the North Fork site.
Among those that attended the meeting were Larry Arbaugh and David Sponaugle who utilize the site frequently for socialization.
Sponaugle left in the middle of the meeting because he was “angry and frustrated.” He said, “They have money for what they want and not what we need.”
The North Fork Senior Center closure has remained a topic of discussion on the board’s agenda since early 2019 when the agency started experiencing financial difficulties.
According to Lantz, the operating costs including salaries have been cut across the entire agency as much as possible during the past four years to bring the organization back into good financial standing, while maintaining the quality and levels of services provided to the community and also maintaining the buildings.
“As an alternative to a congregate site setting, we will offer a grab and go meal to our regular congregate participants,” Lantz said. “These meals will be available Monday, Wednesday and Friday for half an hour. Additional details will be sent out to the regular participants as the final schedule and arrangements are made.”
The North Fork congregate site makes up 6.29% of the meals served, while the Franklin congregate site makes up 33.75%. The rest of the meals served are home delivered to clients in both the Franklin and North Fork areas. This fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2021 to July 31) has received a total number of reimbursement amounts of $26,298 from funding sources for the congregate meal program. The funding covers both Franklin and North Fork sites.
Arbaugh discussed what the program needs as well as what the program means to individuals who participate in it. “What we need is a cook. If we had a cook, the numbers would go up,” he said. “This place is like a support group for us.”
According to Lantz, the total cost of operating the North Fork site alone for the same time period is $27,031. This number includes the costs for only the North Fork salaries, including the North Fork site coordinator, raw food, disposables, and building operating costs.
One attendee in the crowd suggested administrative costs could be to blame and should be cut.
“This number does not reflect any administrative costs,” Lantz said.
Another individual asked, “What is the plan for the building?”
Lantz said, “At this time we have no plans for the building; there are no plans to sell the building. We would like to look for alternative ways to support the building, maybe through alternative funding or grants, allowing us to reopen in the future.”
However, Sponaugle questioned if utilities would continue to be paid and the heat remained on through the cold months. “If they are not shutting off the utilities then why can’t we continue to meet here?”
“We come here for the fellowship. We can eat at home,” Arbaugh added.
Citizens attending the meeting asked to extend the closure until COVID is no longer an issue.
“Numbers at North Fork were already falling prior to COVID. It can no longer be justified to keep this building operating for approximately eight regular participants.” Lantz added.
Several members of the program questioned why PSFSI would hire someone to maintain landscaping and lawn, when members of the program were originally caring for the grounds. One member said it was a wasted expense.
While another, who wished to remain anonymous, said, “Why did we get a print out of Franklin expenses to prepare for the North Fork meeting?”
Others wanted to know why the board members weren’t fighting for them and how they can justify figures during COVID when the building was not in use.
PSFSI is working to restructure home meal routes to accommodate people who will no longer have access to the nutrition site. “We are doing this so that we can continue to assist individuals with nutritional needs,” Lantz said.
While one anonymous member of the program said, “It was an agenda–that’s it–an agenda that excludes the people.”