Now in its second year in the new building, The Center continues growth, improvements
Lisa Engelhardt, administrator at The Center in Gainesville, said during a recent talk at the Gainesville Lions Club that the activities and services the facility offers continue to grow. As an example, Engelhardt said the number of meals served by The Center in the first five months of the year increased by 34 percent over the same time last year. In May, The Center served 3,016 meals, including both hot meals served at The Center as well as meals that were delivered throughout the county.
Most of the home-delivered meals now are flash-frozen rather than hot because of an upcoming change in state regulations, said Engelhardt, and rather than daily deliveries, meal recipients may get multiple meals – a week’s worth of meals or more – with each delivery, depending on their needs and where they live. Meal-program participants who don’t have a freezer big enough to store the meals – or don’t have a microwave for heating them – are encouraged to contact Engelhardt for assistance in getting one.
More volunteers are always needed to help deliver meals and also to help at The Center, Engelhardt said. Churches and other organizations are encouraged to sign up to provide lunchtime volunteers a week at a time. For more information, call The Center at 417-679-4746.
The Center recently started serving a continental breakfast each weekday morning, inviting area residents to come in to visit with friends over coffee and breakfast breads or pastries.
In comments to the Lions Club, and later to the Times, Engelhardt mentioned several other additions and improvements that have been made at The Center since early 2016, when it moved into its “new” building off Highway 5 north at the Gainesville city limits. A new exit was added to the southwest corner of the parking lot, thanks to donations from Ozark County and from the MLH Company. The new exit eases traffic flow in the parking lot and driveway, she said. Also, the parking lot was paved last fall, using a grant from SeniorAge Area Agency on Agency. An additional grant this spring paid for striping the parking lot and spreading gravel in the overflow parking area. Local residents donated parking curbs, she said.
Last fall, picnic tables and umbrellas were added to the deck to provide an outside seating area, Engelhardt said, adding that she hopes The Center can “find a local sponsor to help us add a grill and or a smoker to the deck area this summer.”
With a grant from the White River Valley Electric Co-op’s Operation Round-Up program, The Center bought audio-visual equipment for its meeting room and activity room. “We plan to use that equipment to offer more educational opportunities and possibly some video-led exercise classes,” Engelhardt told the Times last week.
The Center is available for community groups and family gatherings. Groups who plan to meet during The Center’s regular weekday operating hours can call and “get on the schedule for the meeting room” at no charge, Engelhardt said. Those who want to rent the building after weekday hours and on weekends should call for details.
Meanwhile, The Center continues to feature the service it’s best known for: weekday hot lunches, served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The lunches are open to everyone, regardless of age. The cost is $6 for those younger than 60; a $3.50 donation is requested for those over 60. Call 679-4746 to order take-out for 25 cents more. Each week’s menus are published in The Center’s “items” on the community news page in the Ozark County Times.