Neil Folks: Moffat County Council on Aging seeks senior center

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Neil Folks

The Moffat County Council on Aging and its parent state organization, the Area Agency on Aging, held its first public Senior Center Summit on Nov. 18 to determine the need for a senior place to gather and to hold all its different types of functions: social, medical, exercise and recreational. The public meeting was held at the Colorado Northwestern Community College, and the turnout was considered fantastic. An estimated 101 people were in attendance. The gathering included several key community leaders and several key steering committee members from the recreation center movement in the early 2000s.

The members of the Moffat County Council on Aging are me as chairman; delegates Mary Morris and Kelly Knottingham; alternates Jean Jones and Evelyn Tileston; and Ute Jantz, director of the Moffat County Housing Authority. Dave Norman, director of the Area Agency on Aging, Region 11, Grand Junction, outlined the morning’s introduction to the program. He also reviewed the SWOT Analysis for strategic planning: Senior Services in Moffat County, Council on Aging, Aug. 19, 2010, which was research collected from the area’s seniors about how they viewed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to seniors and their programs at the time. The report was conducted by the Aging Council, and it was Moffat County seniors’ message to Colorado’s legislators. The purpose of the research was to make the legislative body aware of rural seniors in remote Moffat County (they do exist, Northwest Colorado). Norman then introduced the facilitators for the gathering, CNCC President Russell George and Moffat County United Way Executive Director Corrie Ponikvar.

The people who showed up shared 118 ideas. All comments and concerns were positive to the idea of having a gathering place for our seniors. There were 24 subject categories, varying from one statement to 19 statements per category, 19 being the most in one category. The biggest category related to having a “facility that is multipurpose and multigenerational in nature that incorporates a specific area for seniors,” housing something for everyone, for all ages. It should be such that the community would be very proud to show off. This group made up approximately 16 percent (19 comments of 118) of the total replies received. The second-largest category consisted of two subjects having the same number of replies: “Where should the facility be located?” and “Do the seniors need a place to gather?” (direct statements — yes), at 11 percent (13 comments in each grouping). The third-largest grouping was in volunteering, people who said “they would help in any way they could to get the endeavor rolling,” 10 percent (12 comments). Finally, the fourth-largest group was comments about financing the program, 7.6 percent (nine comments).

For “where should the facility be located,” 13 total replies, seven comments (54 percent) described seven locations across town. As for the rest of the comments, six (46 percent) directly talked about working something out with the American Legion and developing the Shadow Mountain complex as a starting point for the possible multipurpose, multigenerational gathering place for the community. There was considerable discussion about this potential site and how the community could partner with the American Legion to the benefit of both groups.

As to how the senior center would be financed, George did a great job of handling this concern to the satisfaction of the group.

“We first need to know just what the senior community is thinking about in the way of having a center and what should it incorporate before we talk dollars. Knowing the true mission of this movement will put a completely different perspective on the dollar investment,” George said. “This endeavor must be a community-driven project first. Let’s put the money aside for now; important, yes, but first identifying the ‘need’ is the most important factor for now and bring the money issue back in later. The money will follow.”

As for the rest of the comments, they were all over the board. None are considered insignificant. They very well could come into their own at a later date; therefore, they will be tracked.

The turnout, as well as the willingness of the public to participate, was great. In closing, the chairman asked the participants if they felt they were heard. The answer was a resounding “yes.” They commented on how impressed they were by being asked to participate first in the grass-roots movement. They all appreciated the effort being community driven. Further meetings, one an evening meeting and one a Saturday morning gathering, are being planned for those who could not make a weekday gathering in Craig. The council also is planning a fact-gathering venture to Maybell and Dinosaur, as well. The Moffat County Council on Aging wishes to thank everyone for coming to the Senior Center Summit and sharing their ideas about the need for a place for seniors to gather together. The council also thanks George and Ponikvar for their wonderful services to the summit. And finally, we thank CNCC for providing us a wonderful and beautiful place to gather.

The full list of responses from this summit will be available for the public at the council’s next public meeting in January. If you need the information beforehand, call either Mary Morris, community education director, CNCC — Bell Tower Building, 970-824-1135; or Neil Folks, chairman, Moffat County Council on Aging, P.O. Box 870, Craig, CO 81626, 970-326-8726. Stay tuned for further information about January meeting dates. Once the initial fact-gathering push is completed, we plan to have follow-up meetings to present the results to the public, hopefully in February. Our motto is, “Leave no stone unturned; failure will not be an option!”

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