Orcas Senior Center still going strong

Despite a cut in funding from the county, the Orcas Senior Center is looking towards a bright 2009.

The senior center recently took on the responsibility of Hearts and Hands, an in-home companion service that pairs volunteers with seniors or those with disabilities who are in need of social stimulation, help with household chores, and running errands.

“Sometimes it’s just sitting and having a cup of tea,” said Wally Logan, the 2008 chair of the Orcas Senior Center Advisory Committee. Magdalena Verhasselt succeeded him as the new chairperson for 2009.

There are around 30 volunteers in the Hearts and Hands program, which was founded five years ago under the umbrella of Lahari Hospice.

Lahari decided to discontinue managing Hearts and Hands and “the senior center decided they were the right group to take it on,” said Logan.

Betsy Louton was just hired as the new director of Hearts and Hands and she will work out of the senior center.

“We have a lot of new challenges due to the county’s reduction of funding. Some paid staff hours have been reduced. By in large, we’re going to need more volunteers to pick up some of the slack. We also have the challenge of raising additional funds to support the Hearts and Hands program, which will cost an additional $7500 per year,” said Logan.

“It’s definitely one of the more worthwhile programs on the island, for perhaps one of the more vulnerable segments of our population,” he continued.

The senior center raises money through two major events each year: Granny’s Attic, a garage sale in the spring, and the Holiday Festival, which is held Thanksgiving weekend and includes vendors from throughout the islands. Granny’s Attic raises around $6,000 and the Holiday Festival brings in about $8,000.

“Most important are contributions from both the membership and people on the island who donate during our annual fundraising drive in early fall,” said Logan.

Orcas Senior Center is still offering its usual programs, including senior meals on Tuesdays and Fridays and meals on wheels for those who can’t make it to the center.

There are also trips to the mainland, social events, transportation to doctors appointments both on the island and the mainland, and a foot care program held four days a month.

The Orcas Senior Center desk is manned by volunteers on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To reach the center, call 376-3761.