Each month the Elkins-Randolph County Chamber of Commerce will highlight a member deserving of special recognition. For the month of May, officials are pleased to announce the Randolph County Senior Center as the Chamber Business of the Month.
On Oct. 10, 1965, the Tygarts Valley Chapter No. 98, AARP, discussed the need for an established meeting place and a center for retired persons. In November of 1965, the president of the AARP appointed a committee to investigate the possibility of a senior center opening in the Memorial General Hospital building after the hospital relocated to a new site. Officers were elected and installed in 1966. In 1967 a formal request was made to the MGH Board of Directors for use of the available space of the former hospital building for a Senior Center. A grant was also approved during this time to aid in the operations of the first year.
Activities began in the fall of 1967, but the formal public opening was deferred to March 3, 1968. On the day of opening, membership stood at 170, "with a goal of 4,000, or every citizen over the age of 60 in Randolph County." The Senior Center continued to grow, and in October 1978, membership was 3,415.
In January 1979, the Committee on Aging conducted a door-to-door campaign to purchase land for a new Senior Center. Approximately 4,000 people bought one to five square-foot parcels of land, and $73,000 was raised to buy the property.
In June, 1979, a plan was formed to have a bond levy to finance the construction of a new Senior Center. This was the first such action by a county in the United States. In November 1980, the bond levy was passed by county voters. Operations in the new facility began in December 1982.
Today, the Randolph County Senior Center membership stands at 5,060, a number that exceeds the 1968 goal of "4,000, or all seniors." Latest census figures show Randolph County with 5,616 persons over the age of 60, which means that 90 percent of county senior citizens are members of the Randolph County Senior Center.
The Randolph County Senior Centers provide a variety of services at their locations in Elkins, Mill Creek, and Harman. Lunch is served daily at all three centers and at the Elkins Manor High Rise. Home Delivered meals are served from the Mill Creek and Harman sites.
The public transportation system, Country Roads Transit, operated by the Senior Center but available for use by those of all ages, transports clients across the county for medical appointments, shopping, social services, and other necessary destinations. There are also nine in-home care programs to help with a wide range of needs from simple cleaning to help with personal care and errands, and for those with a wide variety of financial conditions. The caring nurses and in-home care givers work together to provide supportive services that can help keep seniors happy, healthy and home. Many other services including Senior Health Insurance Program Counselor, recreational activities, health screenings, and more are offered by the Randolph County Senior Center.
In the next 20 years, the senior population in Randolph County will nearly double. The increasing number of seniors and the varying tastes of "new" seniors keep the employees at the Senior Center on their toes. Increasing menu choices and activity options goes a long way in reaching out to these new clients.
Laura Ward, executive director of the Randolph County Senior Center said, "One way of getting new folks in the door has been 'Free Lunch Friday.' John Metheny from Fast and Friendly Pharmacy has sponsored this event and purchased lunch for each senior who comes to our nutrition site to eat lunch on the fourth Friday of each month since November. It is a wonderful partnership. It is good advertising for both F&F and the Senior Center. Also, if we can get folks in the door, they realize how much we have going on and tend to stay."
The Senior Center has also partnered with other organizations in our community in an effort to expand services in times of shrinking budgets. For example, they transport YouthBuild students to and from work every day at a reduced fare. This saves Youthbuild money on transportation, ensures the students have a reliable ride to work, and helps Country Roads Transit by increasing ridership and donations.
The in-home care department has begun working with Youthbuild as well to provide in-home caregiver training to their students. This allows the students a choice apart from the typical construction curriculum and may help the Senior Center fill open positions in that area. Officials also partnered with Allegheny Insurance and the Randolph County Development Authority recently to provide defensive driving classes to seniors. This course enabled the seniors to get a discount on their auto insurance, and was a wonderful marketing opportunity for Allegheny Insurance.
For more information on the Randolph County Senior Center, visit their website at www.randolphcountyseniorcenter.com or call 304-636-4747.