Family Service Offers Wide Range of Programs
By LINDA COMINS
Painting, dancing, T’ai Chi, wine tasting, bingo — those are just some of the activities awaiting boomers and older folks at Family Service-Upper Ohio Valley.
Along with all the fun, the nonprofit agency’s senior services division continues to present more serious and vital offerings such as a nutrition program, in-home care services and an adult day care facility.
“We’ve had a lot of changes over the last several years,” said Paula Calvert, CEO of Family Service.
“What you think Family Service offers might have changed. You might be surprised by how much fun and benefit we can offer the community.”
Many services are available to people age 60 or older, she said. Dances, paint-and-sip sessions and wine-tasting events are open to anyone, 21 or older.
Dinner-dances are held periodically at Wheeling Park’s White Palace from 6-10 p.m. Tickets must be purchased in advance. The cost includes a meal.
Each dance attracts about 80 people, Calvert said. “You don’t have to have a partner to come. It’s a very casual setting. You don’t have the expense of having to dress up,” she added.
A variety of bands are featured at the dances, performing “easy listening” music or favorite tunes from the 1960s and 1970s.
“Dances are fun. You get a wide variety of people incuding line dancers and ballroom dancers. You can enjoy yourself, have fun and exercise and socialize within your age group,” she said.
A spring dinner-dance, featuring music by the 40 Plus Band, takes place tonight. Also scheduled are a summer dinner-dance on July 20, a luau dinner-dance on Sept. 21 and a holiday dinner-dance on Dec. 7.
All weekday activities are held on the second floor of the Human Resource Center, 51 11th St., Wheeling. With all of the offerings, “we are working on trying to fight the loneliness and isolation” that can accompany retirement or changes in lifestyle, Calvert said.
Bingo is played on the first Wednesday of every month. “Our numbers are growing. We have around 20 on average,” she said.
A transportation shuttle for bingo players is provided from the Market Street entrance of Anthony Wayne’s lower parking lot, with pick-up times of 12:15 p.m. and 12:30 p.m. Ohio County seniors who need transportation from home are asked to make reservations two days in advance by calling 304-233-2350, ext. 204.
T’ai Chi movement classes, taught by certified instructors Steve Perdok and Nancy Shutler, are conducted from 2-3 p.m. Monday and 10:30-11:30 a.m. Thursday. Calvert said the low-impact exercise sessions attract about 10 participants.
“New individuals are always welcome. It’s a very patient and welcoming group,” Calvert said.
People who practice T’ai Chi report that their flexibility and balance have improved since starting the exercises, while others say their overall health has benefited from the calming influence of the Far Eastern-based regimen. Moundsville resident Gussie Smith said that taking T’ai Chi “brought my blood pressure down.”
Smith, who directs a weekly art class at the HRC building, observed, “There are a lot of things to do in the Ohio Valley. There are a lot of beneficial and practically free things. I look forward to it (the art class) every week.”
The art class, for people 60 and older, is offered from 1-3 p.m. Thursday. Participants attend from Ohio, Marshall and Belmont counties. Proceeds from paint-and-sip fundraisers are used to buy supplies for the art class.
A close-knit, fun-loving group has developed in the class as members explore artistic pursuits and encourage each other to try something new.
In the art class, Calvert said, “They become the best of friends. Not only do they learn things, but also it’s a bonding experience. You see how many things they share as a group.”
Smith said, “People come who have never picked up a paintbrush and others who have … Everyone is so good. Everyone has a sense of humor.”
Also at the senior center, folks may gather to play pool from 9-11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Lunch is served there from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on weekdays.
Family Service’s nutrition program prepares lunches for seniors in Marshall and Ohio counties and for Head Start’s preschool centers in Hancock, Brooke, Ohio and Marshall counties. “Last year, we served 80,000 meals between the seniors and Head Start,” Calvert said.
Lunches for seniors are served at congregate sites and delivered to home-bound residents Monday through Friday (except holidays). About 175 meals are prepared daily in Marshall and Ohio counties, she said.
“We have two congregate sites in Marshall County and one here at the HRC building,” she said. “We provide transportation. It’s socialization, plus a great warm meal.”
“For nutrition clients, we might be their only contact of the day,” she said. In addition to providing brief human interaction, meal deliverers might discover seniors who need medical intervention. “On several occasions, our drivers have stumbled across people who needed assistance,” the CEO said.
Meal delivery is available on a long-term basis or for temporary need or post-surgery. “A lot of our seniors have taken advantage of our services after they have had a surgery,” the CEO related.
Lunches are prepared at a center in Moundsville. “Andy Wesolowski, our food service director, worked in several restaurants in the Ohio Valley. He and his staff prepare meals that they would be proud to serve and eat themselves,” Calvert said.
For more information on the nutrition program or to schedule deliveries, call 304-233-2350, ext. 317.
In addition, transportation is available for seniors’ weekly trips to the grocery store. “Transportation has a suggested donation rate. But if you can’t pay at that time, you’re still eligible,” she said.
Seniors in Ohio County can contract with Family Service for in-home services such as light housekeeping or assistance with hygiene and bathing. A caregivers’ service also is available to provide “a reliable source to stay with their loved one to give caregivers much-need time to do their own personal errands,” she said.
Regarding in-home services, Calvert commented, “It provides a lot of peace of mind, not only for the seniors, but also for family members. We get a lot of calls from out of state.”
The senior services division operates an adult day care facility in the HRC building for people who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Currently, 13 people are served at the center.
The adult day care center is open from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays. “If a person needs to be here longer, we can provide those services,” she added. “A lot of our individuals have family members who work.”
A common bond develops between clients who are experiencing the same disease process, with the center offering a social atmosphere for them, Calvert observed. “There is also a sense of security,” she added.
Among those currently participating in adult day care, “a couple are in early stages and several are close to placement,” she said. Having this care option “helps to provide families with time to make the process as easy as possible as they look to the next step,” she explained.
Family Service is a member agency of the United Way of the Upper Ohio Valley and receives funding from the West Virgionia Bureau of Senior Services. Calvert said, “Some programs are fee-based. Some are based on income and take other expenses into account. It’s a reasonable rate for families to be able to afford and provide peace of mind.”
The organization also has received a grant to provide in-home services to veterans through the Veterans Administration. She said, “We’re very excited about that. We have a large number of individuals in this community who are veterans, and we appreciate their service.”