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Brooke County Senior Center Perseveres with Services, Activities

Visitors to the Brooke County Senior Center in Follansbee listen carefully for their numbers to be called by volunteer Josie Patrone during a bingo session, one of many activities offered by the center. Patrone was filling in for Donna Stevens, the center’s usual bingo caller.

FOLLANSBEE — While it faced some financial struggles for a while, the Brooke County Senior Center has coped with them and continues to offer residents 60 and older a variety of activities and services, said its director.

“We’re slowly coming back into the black,” said Angela Kocher, executive director of the Brooke County Committee on Aging, which operates the center.

Kocher said the center suffered from cuts in federal funding, but contributions from the Brooke and Hancock county commissions and adjustments to staff scheduling are helping the center to continue to provide many of the same services and activities.

She said the committee has received $25,000 from the Brooke County Commission and $15,000 from the Hancock County Commission, the latter noting the center provides many meals to Hancock County residents through its senior nutrition program.

The center also is among services that receive funds through the Brooke County ambulance excess levy and the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley.

Kocher said such contributions allow the committee to provide the local matches required for federal grants that account for about 70 percent of the committee’s budget.

For example, the group must provide about $3,500 toward federal funds awarded for the center’s day-to-day operations and a $23,000 match for those awarded for its senior nutrition program.

The program has been a key part of the center’s operations over the years and currently provides more than 4,000 meals to about 250 seniors. They are served from 11:30 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday at the center, the Weirton Senior Center and Freedom Place Apartments in Weirton and Hancock House in New Cumberland.

Kocher said the funding cuts led to the number of nutrition sites being reduced but the program continues to provide meals to a large number of residents 60 and older who are homebound.

“We deliver to both counties and currently serve seniors as far north as New Cumberland and as far south as Windsor Heights,” she said.

Kocher added the program has received a boost recently through a new partnership with Parkhurst Dining, which feeds the staff and students of Bethany College. Representatives of Parkhurst said they focus on providing meals made from scratch, often with locally produced food, and look forward to expanding their service to the seniors.

She said the program will have a new director, Darla Cheripko, who has worked at the center for many years, following the retirement of Karen Scheetz.

Those who come to the senior center for lunch, or a continental breakfast held at 9 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month, often stay for one of its many activities.

In recent months the center has invited seniors to exercise together during the airing of the Public Broadcasting System program “Sit and Be Fit,” at 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. The program offers instruction in gentle exercises that can be performed while seated, improving fitness for those for whom balance or prolonged standing are issues.

A Monday morning women’s card club is being formed for February and will join regular euchre, line dancing and bingo sessions held there.

Kocher noted the center is a base of operations for services and activities there and throughout the community.

Terri Foglia, the committee’s in-home services director, said the programs under her umbrella help seniors stay in their homes when appropriate through visits by workers who may do light housekeeping, cook for them and aid them with personal care.

People served by the program include residents eligible for Medicaid, a Medicaid waiver or veterans benefits and others who pay on a sliding scale based on their income. The committee on aging also offers the Family Alzheimer In-home Respite program, in which workers spend time with individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, allowing loved ones who care for them to take a break.

Seniors interested in volunteering are encouraged to contact Tonette Alward, director of the Brooke-Hancock-Ohio-Marshall Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, which can match them with nonprofit organizations that may benefit from their skills.

Alward said currently volunteers are needed for the AARP tax assistance program, to serve as companions to homebound seniors who simply lack company and to make phone call checks on such seniors.

She said in observance of Martin Luther King Day, nonperishable food drives will be held through January at the center and at RSVP’s Warwood office.

Sandy Kemp coordinates van trips on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on University Drive in Pittsburgh, from which shuttles may be taken to the Aspinwall VA center.

Kemp also books a monthly shopping trip to Steubenville, with the next one scheduled for Thursday.

Such services may indicate patrons of the senior center are always going somewhere. But many also are happy to spend time there, socializing, playing games and watching television together.

Patti Shute of Follansbee said, “I come here four days a week. We play bingo. They have parties for us, all kinds of things. We always have a lot of fun. This gets us out of the house.”

Norma “Dottie” Scott of Follansbee said the camaraderie with fellow seniors has helped her and others through difficult times. “It’s just a comforting place if you’ve got a problem or you’re alone,” she said, adding, “It’s nice. Everybody here is nice.”

Located at 948 Main St., the center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. For information about its services and activities, call (304) 527-3410 or visit www.bccoawv.org.

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