Let's 'Make it Happen!'

by Lori Case Melton

Where were you in 1980? I was in high school and cruisin’ the Walmart/Shoney’s parking lot (yes, I just gave my age away).

Conway was certainly a different city in 1980. There were two banks and a savings and loan, town ended at I-40 to the east and Conway High to the west, the population was 17,000 and there was only one small Walmart.

Also in 1980, the Conway location of the Faulkner County Senior Citizens Center opened serving 200 folks. Thirty-three years later the same facility is serving more than 2,000 people. Saying it’s time for a new facility is way past due.

This group is governed by the Faulkner County Council on Aging Inc., and they operate senior citizen centers in Conway, Greenbrier, Mayflower, Vilonia, Twin Groves and Mount Vernon. The Conway center has also been denoted as a senior wellness facility because of its health and fitness programming.

The Conway center certainly had a golden opportunity with the purchase of the Agora Conference and Special Events Center. This building is laid out perfectly for the senior center’s needs; all that’s needed is a kitchen expansion. Had they had to acquire land and construct this facility, it would have cost $9 million. Of course, this was not possible. The purchase of Agora, at just less than $2 million, makes this facility feasible.

So here we are with a $2 million capital campaign under way with the theme “Make it Happen.” Linda Linn and I are the co-chairs of this campaign, and at press time we were at $1.25 million. We have a long way to go, and we need your help to “Make it Happen.”

Many have asked me why I would I want to take on such a task. My response is, “WHY NOT?” Each and every one of you will be in need of this organization if you live to be old enough. Odds are we all know someone who has been touched by this organization. I’ve even joked I’m helping to create a place for me and my friends to retire to. But all joking aside . . . I will need this facility in a time that is not as far away as I would like.

You might ask why this should matter to you? This is an easy question to answer. This group saves lives each day! Here are just a few ways:

In 2012, the senior center provided more than 131,000 meals per year in Faulkner County, with 92,000 being delivered in-home. Most of these people would not be able to have a nutritional meal without this service whether they are a shut-in or just unable to cook for themselves. The person making the delivery is typically the only person to come in contact with that senior on a daily basis. The deliverer also becomes a lifeline, keeping track of health changes.

The center transports seniors to much needed doctor appointments. This may be for chemotherapy, a check-up or even regular dialysis. They logged 98,000 miles on their 16 vans in 2012 right here in Faulkner County. Many of the local seniors do not have the luxury of having family available to take them to these necessary visits.

Whether through physical activities or the socialization, attendees have the opportunity to be a part of something, which gives them a reason to be alive. One of the gentlemen I have met has told me about the loneliness he felt after his wife passed away. It took him four years to get the courage to come to the center. And now he is quite the social butterfly, even dancing for the first time in his life. In his words, “This isn’t a junkyard for old people, this is where we learn life isn’t over yet and to have fun!”

At any given time, research has proven the center is keeping 225 people out of nursing homes. Besides a life-changing event, that translates into $13 million in Medicaid funding!

You also may ask what the new center will be able to provide. Another easy answer:

Currently the center can do just a few activities at the same time. You certainly cannot do Zumba and gospel singing simultaneously! They spend a lot of time putting up and
taking down. But with the new facility, there will be specific rooms for things like arts and crafts, music, games, computers, media, etc. Each of these events can be going all day.

There will be an exercise room with weights, treadmills and other machinery, increasing the health, fitness and hopefully longevity, of all members.

There will be a meeting room for nutrition classes and other subjects of interest to this age group.

There will be a loading dock for the 90,000-plus meals to be delivered.

Currently the center has 62 parking places. The new facility will have more than 200. Right now folks pull up and if they can’t find a spot, they leave. They can’t walk blocks to get there.

The center will still be available to rent to business or the public for some events. This will help pay for extra programming at the center. Contact the center if you are interested.

On the website fcseniors.com/MakeitHappen, you can find out more about this cause. You can even make a donation. We are accepting donations and financial commitments for three to five years.

Donations of $1,000 or more will be recognized on the Legacy Wall at the new center. This a great way to honor or memorialize someone. I’m doing a donation in memory of my parents. My mother benefitted from the Mount Vernon center. I wished she had been healthy enough to attend more. She would have loved the interaction.

Naming rights for rooms are also available for larger donations. There are many ways for you to give: cash, check, credit card and stock. Credit card donations can be made online at the site mentioned above. Checks can be mailed to Faulkner County Council on Aging Inc., 1620 Donaghey Ave., Conway, AR 72034.

Please don’t put this article down without considering a contribution. The 16,000 seniors of Faulkner County need you. “Make it Happen” for them today.