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home : local news : local news

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Sumner comes together to support senior center
SUMNER - The community of Sumner came together to show its support for the Senior Center, Monday night. About 30 people gathered in the cafeteria of the Sumner Attendance Center to discuss its fate of the center, located at 27 E. Sycamore.

On Feb. 1, it was announced by the Southeastern Illinois Agency on Aging that the center would close. However, the board asked for a hearing to get input from its citizens.

"We're having financial problems with the senior center," Frank May, president of the Lawrence County Senior Citizens, told the group. "If the center is going to stay, we're going to have to have some help from the citizens."

Shana Holmes, representing the SIAA, explained that state and federal aid governs those services of nine counties of the region. With that financial assistance, support is given, in part, towards the operations of the senior centers. The centers, however, must have matching funds to complete the costs.

Delayed receipt of state funding has made it difficult for some centers to provide its services. Holmes gave one such example for which slow funding had adversely affected services. It resulted in a debt of $30,000 for food. The increase of the minimum wage is also a factor that will have an impact on the center budgets.

Yvonne Deknikker, co-director of the county centers, reiterated the importance of matching funds contributed by each of the satellite centers. Participation is key in community support of a center. Population of the area, however, determines state and federal funding received.

Those in attendance suggested that there were many other fundraisers and activities that could be introduced to support the Sumner center. This focus will likely be the insurance that the local center needs to remain in operation.

The Sumner Senior Center is the only center in the county that rents a building. That cost is $225 per month, including utilities. Other costs are the site manager's salary and food provided for daily lunches. Currently, 25 to 30 meals are sent to Sumner. The matching fund contribution that the Sumner site must raise is $5,000 per fiscal year. The fiscal year started on Oct 1, and runs through Sept. 30.

Sumner center board member David Green said it has come down to a mindset to "use it or lose it." Determined to keep the center open, Green pledged his continued support to seek out "free" food for lunch preparation, as well providing it as an additional take-home plus available at the center. He expressed intention to make a motion in an upcoming board meeting to continue the center for a year. Then, the board would take a second look at its progress. Green, Sumner Mayor Betty Brian and Jess Brian comprise the board of the Sumner senior center.

It was pointed out that progress has been made with the introduction of a new menu and foods being served. Attendance has increased at the Sumner Center since those changes.

Mayor Brian expressed her hopes in keeping the center open. The home deliveries of meals, she said, gives seniors an opportunity to communicate with others as "it might be the only time they see anybody all day long."

"I feel like our seniors deserve that," Brian said. "They are our roots."

Volunteer drivers do play an important role in making senior services work. By providing transportation of lunch meals from the kitchen in the Lawrenceville center to satellite centers in St. Francisville, Bridgeport and Sumner, as well as some senior residences, they are another piece of the puzzle to ensure that the services continue.

As it now stands, the Sumner Center will remain open. It is contingent, however, upon the ability to show "reasonable" cause and support for it to continue.



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