"We want to be in partnership with the community," said Reed Cox, director of the Payson Senior Center since July 2007.
Cox has been a resident of Arizona for most of his career. He spent 32 years in the Pinal County and Gila Indian Community criminal justice system. During this time, he worked in the police department, probation and in various administrative positions.
"It's taking care of people," Cox said, about his job as director of the Senior Center. "That's what I've done my whole life."
He and his wife, Barbara, had a weekend home in Payson for many years. When they retired here, they bought a house and remodeled it. He was then ready to take on another project.
"I like to have a purpose," he said.
When he saw the ad for the job of director of the Payson Senior Center, he applied.
Not one to talk about himself, Cox quickly moved on. "That's enough of that." He wanted to talk about the Senior Center.
He complimented the Senior Center Board of Directors for working together to meet the diverse challenges the facility faces.
"We took what was here and built on it. We've been able to improve financially and improve the building," said Cox.
The board wants to offer more programs for the many needs of seniors, but the dollars are limited.
"You have to prioritize," Cox said.
When a senior walks in the Center with a question, Cox doesn't want the staff to let the senior walk out the door unless they are helped. Sometimes that assistance can be a referral to another agency. He wants the Center to be a referral source for the needs of seniors.
The Payson Senior Center is one of nine facilities under the umbrella of the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens, Area Agency on Aging, Region 5. Bill Spangler, a benefits specialist, provides services 20 hours a week. Adelphia Sissons, the legal representative, has a full appointment book every month.
With Cox's commitment to community involvement, the Center has participated in local events, such as the First Friday Art & Antique Walk on old Main, the auto show, the Aero Fair and has partnered with service clubs for their activities. The Center, including the thrift store, stays open until 8 p.m. for the First Friday event and has the Old Time Music Makers provide entertainment.
Cox encourages the seniors to participate in community activities by taking advantage of the bus service provided by the Center.
Rhondi Dalgleish and La Veta Leininger dispatch two buses, between 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Cox wants to expand that to three buses and possibly have service on Saturday as well. The service is available with a suggested $2. donation. Appointments for transportation must be made in advance.
Another important service at the Center includes providing lunch five days a week. Tracy Belcher and her staff cook 40 to 60 meals a day for the congregate meal program. The daily meals are free to anyone over 60 years of age, with a suggested donation of $3. The Meals on Wheels program offers nutritious food to homebound seniors.
Some of the changes made since Cox started are "simple things," he said. The lobby has been painted, the bathrooms remodeled, and the conference room redecorated.
The steps to the upstairs meeting room are steep. To provide more safety for the seniors, they installed a light over the stairs and a three-foot extension to the handrail so a person headed down doesn't have to lean way over to grab the rail. Work is in progress to put a chair elevator on the stairs so persons who have difficulty climbing can get to some of the meetings.
Computer classes in the meeting room will start again as soon as money and donations are found to buy new computers. Cox also wants the community to know that the upstairs meeting room is available to rent for various functions.
The variety of daily activities enhances the programs at the Center.
"You'll hear lots of laughter and talking, and that's what I like," Cox said.
To provide the service, fund-raising must be an ongoing process. Each year the Center needs at least $400,000 for the building, staff and the programs for the seniors. Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens is the major funding source. Cox is grateful for the contributions made by the Town of Payson and various grants. The Thrift Store, run by volunteers, including the volunteer manager, Marjorie Morrison, sends all its dollars back into the Center.
They have started a new fund-raiser called "Pennies for Seniors." Cox encourages residents of Payson to stop by the Center, learn about the activities, and drop their change in the container at the front office.
The Payson Senior Center, located at 514 W. Main, is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, call (928) 474-4876.