Having lost two family members, Verna Lewis missed the companionship she was used to having.
When she visited the Brownstown Senior Center in 2005, however, she gained new friends who became like family.
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Last fall, though, Lewis said she was saddened to hear about director Cora Lucas retiring from her job with Thrive Alliance, which operates the center in a building owned by the town at 124 S. Main St.
Also, the center had been a meal site since its inception, but low attendance and the lack of a driver for the van to deliver meals resulted in that going out of operation in March. The van, which also was used to bring people to the center and take them other places they needed to go, has sat idle ever since.
Jackson County United Way, which provides the center with $3,500 annually, became concerned about seniors not receiving adequate services, so it sought help from the town in working with Hoosier Christian Village, a nonprofit senior living facility in town, to offer programming and meals to the seniors.
Once the seniors saw the inside of the building they would be moving to, they realized they were content with their current facility.
“I sure don’t want to go there,” Lewis told the council during a meeting Monday night. “I’ll fight and do whatever I can to stay where we’re at, and I hope you all appreciate it because I don’t want to go anywhere else. When you get in your 70s and 80s, it’s rough, and some of us have no place else to go. That’s like a home away from home.”
To stay in the building on Main Street, Council President Sally Lawson said someone would have to volunteer to step up to be the director. Duties would include managing schedules, events and drivers, taking calls for people to be picked up and filling out paperwork.
People also would be needed to drive the center’s van, including taking people to and from the center and other places and delivering meals. That is a paid position, and they would be required to have a chauffeur’s license.
Margareet Welch, who regularly visits the senior center, said the group was hoping to take a trip later this month, so having the van available to use would help.
Plus, Lewis said the seniors go to Driftwood Christian Church in Vallonia on the second Wednesday of each month for a meal.
“It would be nice if we could all go together in the van and we wouldn’t have to drive,” she said.
Shirley Eggersman, another regular at the center, said there also are members who currently have no way to get to the center, so a van would be a big help.
“Us old folks, this is our main entertainment,” she said.
The center is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday with a meal served at 11:30 a.m. Euchre, bingo and other activities are offered. Memberships are only $2 for a year.
“We’re doing fine with the food part,” Eggersman said. “We take care of ourselves.”
Before the van can be used, it needs a battery installed, a spare tire fixed and some decals removed. Clerk-Treasurer David Willey said the hope is to do all of that sometime this month.
At one time, Thrive Alliance was in the business of owning its vans and having drivers. Because of insurance and liability purposes and a policy change, it got away from that.
A few months ago, a proposal was presented for the town to take ownership of the van and work with Thrive Alliance to apply for a $10,000 Title III-B grant through the Older Americans Act. That would help cover the cost of maintenance, a driver and insurance.
That is federal money, and it’s a reimbursable grant, so the town would have to submit expenses on a monthly basis to get the money back.
Lawson told the seniors that town officials would reconvene and see if staying at the center is feasible.
Brenda Silvers said she hopes everything works out because she appreciates having the opportunity to go to the center.
She said she used to be a homebody, but after Lewis talked her into visiting a few months ago, she has gone ever since.
“I just felt like I had known everybody for years. They all made me feel that good,” Silvers said. “It’s just great. They all just make you feel like you belong.”
Larry Chastain of Seymour said he has been making the trip over to the Brownstown center for more than 10 years.
He likes having a place to play euchre and bingo, drink coffee, read the newspaper and eat a good meal.
“As soon as I get here, they’ve usually got the coffee made, and I can start playing euchre at 9 o’clock,” he said. “They make sure that when you come, you get to join in. It’s just nice.”
Welch and Lewis both told the council they appreciate their efforts in helping the seniors.
“Thank you very much for what you’ve done for the seniors,” Lewis said. “We appreciate what you’ve done for us, and we hope we can stay there in the building and you guys can keep helping us. Just so you don’t make us move, that’s all we’re asking.”
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The Brownstown Senior Center is at 124 S. Main St.
It’s open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday with a meal served at 11:30 a.m. Euchre, bingo and other activities are offered. Anyone 55 and older is invited, and memberships are only $2 for a year.
To stay in the current building, a director is needed to volunteer his or her time. Duties include managing schedules, events and drivers, taking calls for people to be picked up and filling out paperwork.
People also are needed to drive the center’s van, including taking people to and from the center and other places and delivering meals. That’s a paid position, and a chauffeur’s license is required.
Anyone interested in being the director or a van driver should call Brownstown Town Hall at 812-358-5500.