Senior Center: Providing A Quarter Century Of Support For Local Seniors



The Payson Senior Center at 514 W. Main St. is going on its 25th year of existence, serving the needs of the adult community in Payson.

The center's director, Marsha Cauley, emphasizes that the center offers a wide array of opportunities including meals, transportation, Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors, advocacy, support and activities.

The center feeds more than 100 seniors who might otherwise go hungry, every day, five days a week.

Each weekday around noon, center staff and volunteers begin serving lunch which, for some elderly residents, will be their only meal of the day.

The center is also responsible for the Meals on Wheels program that feeds over 50 homebound seniors a day. The center requests a donation of $3 for each meal, but understands that many of the town's elderly have a tough time affording even that.

"It's our policy at the senior center to never turn anyone away," Cauley said.

The senior center also provides transportation for such things as medical appointments at a low cost, and a van picks up those who come for lunch.

Approximately one-third of the center is funded by the Gila-Pinal Council on Aging. Donations, the center's thrift

store, and a few grants are the other primary sources of funding for the center. When the center encountered a financial shortfall this year, the town chipped in $30,000 to keep the doors open. This was substantially more than the town has given in the past and Cauley, as well as board president Elaine Drorbaugh, said they hope this increased level of support continues.

"This town has a very large senior population," Cauley said. "The town needs to make their seniors a priority."

Cauley cites Mesa and Casa Grande as two examples of several municipalities that heavily fund their senior centers.

The center's membership is more than 300. At a cost of $10 a year, members are entitled to participate in everything the center has to offer.

They can also start their own activity groups.

"I had one person ask me if we had a scrabble group and we don't, so I encouraged her to start one up," Cauley said. "This is their center -- it belongs to the seniors. I am here just to make sure things run smoothly."

Cauley emphasized that the center should be run by the people. Indeed, the center and its thrift shop are primarily operated by volunteers. There are only five paid staff members.

The center has an executive board of directors and an advisory and activities board that works on fund-raising efforts.

"In fact, they are organizing a pancake breakfast for Aug. 2," Cauley said.

Cauley, who has been the center's director for two years, is on a mission to make improvements to the center -- not only what goes on inside, but the look of the center.

"We really want to give the center a facelift," Cauley said.

Cauley said she would like to raise funds for interior improvements and a new paint job outside. The ideal situation, she said, is if it could be included in the Main Street Redevelopment Project.

After 25 years, Cauley said the senior center should be considered historic.

Cauley said she also wants a big screen TV so they can show movies.

"There are really things to do here every day, eight hours a day," Drorbaugh said. "There's always something going on."

Monday has music makers at 9 a.m. and bridge play all afternoon. Tuesday has choir, aerobics and pinochle. On Wednesday, the center has a non-denominational Bible study in the morning and canasta in the afternoon. Thursday is aerobics, wood carving and canasta. Friday is pinochle.

Besides the scheduled recreation, resourcing is a large part of what the center provides.

"A Salvation Army representative is here Tuesday through Friday and answers questions about their services -- like if someone needed help with a utility bill," Cauley said.

Once a month, a legal advocate provides free legal aid to the seniors. Guest speakers come on occasion to cover topics pertinent to seniors.

Cauley, center board members and volunteers are working hard to accomplish their vision of what they believe a senior center should be.

"Our seniors deserve a nice place to go -- a great center for the people and run by the people," Cauley said.

On a shoestring budget, the Payson Senior Center continues to provide necessary services to the community's elderly, while creating a hub for social networking.

For more information on the Payson Senior Center, call 474-4876.

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