Need to expand bumps into cuts in grants

Kile Brewer
Posted 5/18/17

MELROSE – Three days a week, a host of Clay County seniors play a variety of games, participate in group discussions and enjoy a hot meal at the Melrose Senior Community Center.

“The main …

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Need to expand bumps into cuts in grants


MELROSE – Three days a week, a host of Clay County seniors play a variety of games, participate in group discussions and enjoy a hot meal at the Melrose Senior Community Center.

“The main goal is to provide accessibility to health programs, leisure and nutrition to people in this community,” said Jonathan Leslie, executive director of the Institute for Workforce Innovation, a Gainesville company that started the community center as one of its projects. “We’re seeing a higher need [for these centers] across the country, and Melrose is not exempt from that. We’re looking at the boomer generation, and with more patrons there is a higher need for a place like this.”

With a growing number of senior citizens, the small community of Melrose, which sits at the intersection of four counties, needs a place where residents can gather to enjoy social activities and the occasional lunchtime meal.

The center opened in 2011 and relies totally on donations from the public and some funding from grants. Now open Monday, Wednesday and Friday, they have changed operating hours several times since the center’s inception, and are trying to expand hours and services to five days a week, Monday through Friday.

“Grants we’ve received in the past have ended,” said Peggy Jo Thran, center program coordinator “We’re hoping that with upcoming fundraisers we can return to being open five days a week.”

The center has teamed up with local groups to promote donations for its continued operation. On May 9, there was a silent auction hosted by the Melrose Business and Community Association, which featured donated items from local artists and collectors up for bid. They have also planned a 50/50 raffle fundraiser for a Cruise In scheduled from 4-8 p.m. on May 12 at Heritage Park in Melrose. Aside from fundraisers, the community center also operates a full-service public coffee shop inside their main room, complete with espresso drinks. Proceeds from the coffee sales go toward funding the center.

The regular lunches range from fried chicken to pizza, potato bars and build-your-own-sub sandwiches. There is a suggested minimum donation of $3 for the meals, but those who can’t give that much will not be turned away.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to start serving lunch five days a week,” Thran said. “Some people would not have a hot meal [otherwise].”

Thran’s sister, Sue Corbett, who has been volunteering at the community center for two years, echoed these statements.

“Some of these people simply have no place to go, some of them would not eat without us,” she said. “The people here are great people.”

Corbett came to the center first as a client, but started volunteering soon after.

“When I moved down here I didn’t have anything to do,” Corbett said. “They had a class for tai chi for balance and said that would help with my arthritis. After that class I started volunteering. It gets me out of the house, for three mornings a week at least.”

Corbett is not the only person at the center who needs some outside activity to fill their days, many of the residents are retired and have no other reason to leave the house.

“Some of these seniors would not have any social life if we were not open,” Thran said. “We are trying to stay open so the seniors [in Melrose] have a place to go.”

Natalie Tucker is one such senior.

“For me, being a widow, I’m alone,” Tucker said. “Coming here I’ve met all these ladies, it’s been very nice.”

Her friend Karolyn Martin, who sat across the table, brought the card game Bunco to the center, which has become the game of choice for the center’s visitors on Wednesday mornings.

“I come here 2-3 days a week with my husband,” Martin said. “We play games in the morning and then have our lunch. You meet a lot of nice people here and it gives people a place to go.”

The center is in the midst of its capital campaign where the hope is to raise $30,000 to continue operation and expand their hours to a five-day-a-week schedule. Another fundraising event has been scheduled for June 9. For more information, call the center at (352) 475-5347.


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