Senior center gets funding boost

Chris Michlewicz
Posted

Tired of ending every year in the red, the Parker Senior Center has employed a successful plan to raise money to accommodate the ever-growing aging population.

The 450-member organization on Longs Way near South Parker Road has routinely ended each fiscal year with a sizable deficit, but that trend ended in 2011. Officials upped the number of fundraising events, including monthly pancake breakfasts and fun, family-friendly events such as a ’50s sock hop, luau and Oktoberfest celebration.

A country-style barbecue April 28 is open to the public and will feature a group of eight seniors performing the dance from the movie “Footloose.” Tickets are $8.

The senior center relies on private donations and a handful of grants, including $64,000 in annual funding from the Town of Parker and a transportation grant from Douglas County that totaled $17,000 for 2012. But with utilities, food, activity costs and other expenses adding up to around $200,000 each year, management is responsible for making up the difference.

“It’s been coming out of savings, but we know we can’t go on like that forever,” said Jan Dengal, manager of the Parker Senior Center. Annual memberships, at a nominal cost of $24, make only a small dent in total costs.

That’s why she and president John Peters decided to apply for a slew of state and federal grants, as well as money from individual foundations, in 2011. That push resulted in an additional $65,000 in funding, including a $10,000 food grant from the Daniels Fund, and put the senior center in the black for the first time in a while.

The timing couldn’t be better, as demand for services is only increasing.

“A day doesn’t go by that we don’t add a new member,” Dengal said. “We’re bulging at the seams.”

Transportation is particularly growing in importance. Local RTD shuttles are running less frequently and the service, which many seniors rely on for doctor appointments or to go grocery shopping, are consistently on the chopping block when budget cuts are discussed.

The senior center has a team of volunteer dispatchers and van drivers who coordinate an average of 200 trips per month. A $3 charge each way is optional, Dengal said.

Meals at the Parker Senior Center cost $3.50, offering a cost-effective option for those on a tight budget. Dengal credits the facility’s new chef with bringing down food expenses and improving the quality of the meals that are served. He shops sales at bulk food stores and prepares all of his meals from scratch.

The meals and parties are just some of the social activities that members and non-members alike can enjoy, and the center is doing its best to reach out to those who are unaware of the opportunities.

The rising popularity has resulted in some challenges with capacity. The senior center remodeled its basement a few years back to add classrooms, but the possibility of expansion or relocation is always on the minds of those who run the facility.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know how we do it,” Dengal said.

They recently got assistance from Cimarron Middle School students who stopped by with a video camera and submitted a request for an overhaul to the hit ABC show “Extreme Makeover.”

For more information about activities or membership, call 303-841-5370.

A few of the activities at the Parker Senior Center:

Line dancing

Movie night

Educational speakers about fraud or other topics

Country barbecues

Pancake breakfasts

Dance routines

Bridge

Computer classes