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Houston County Courier - Local News

Copyright 2011 - Polk County Publishing Company

Activity center needs support
Houston County Courier

By Lynda Jones Managing Editor

How are senior activity centers to continue serving hundreds of citizens is a question Glenna Enos, director of the Crockett Senior Activity Center, is asking. The Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) is responsible for distributing federal and state funds to the senior citizens in the region. According to Enos, DETCOG is behind in distributing funds due to the Service Center for Older Americans of Houston County, Inc. (Crockett Senior Activity Center) and it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep the doors open. Dissatisfied with communications with DETCOG, and frustrated about the lack of funds necessary to operate Crockett’s senior center, Enos met Thursday, Jan. 27 with Karla Carr, Rep. Joe Barton’s (R-TX-Congressional District 6) assistant; Victoria Scott, secretary of the center’s board; Helen Dubcak, of Young at Heart (First Methodist Church-Crockett) and considering a board position; and members of the media to discuss the reported delay in getting necessary funds from DETCOG and to brainstorm ideas to meet the needs of the center. Enos expressed concern that all of the senior centers who receive federal and state funds through DETCOG may be endangered. “I can’t fight DETCOG and do all the day-to-day operations,” Enos said. Enos said checks received from DETCOG in November and January to cover meals for the people who physically come to the center and to cover meals that are delivered, but the check did not include the amount due for center operations (including payroll). That check was for October. When contacted by the Courier, Holly Anderson, director of the Area Agency on Agency at DETCOG, reported the following payments were made to the Service Center for Older Almericans of Houston County, Inc.: *September 2010 Services, submitted Oct. 8, paid Oct. 22, check# 579067, $10,813.84; *October 2010 Services, submitted Nov. 8, paid Nov. 24, check # 580574, $9,376.89; *November 2010 Services, submitted Dec. 8, paid Jan. 14, check # 582953, $9,214.45 (DADS had new staff training on the processing of the RFRs); * December 2010 Services, submitted Jan. 8, processed Jan. 10 and ordered Jan. 21, $9,308.77. “We expect that this check will go out on or before Friday, Feb. 4, Anderson stated. “All invoices and reports are due to us by the eighth day of the month following the month for which the services were rendered,” Anderson explained. “We process all those received by that date. We submit Requests for Funds twice a month on Fridays, as they are due at the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services on Monday morning, 8 a.m. This usually occurs around the 15th and the 30th, Anderson reported. Anderson further explained, “Depending on a wide set of circumstances – errors, holidays, new and/or absent staff (both at the AAA and at DADS) , it usually takes 10 – 14 days for DADS to process the payment, submit it to the State Comptroller’s Office, and for payment to be received in our offices. Once we have been notified that a payment has deposited to the DETCOG bank, we have three days to mail checks.” When asked about funds designated for operating expenses of the centers, Anderson told the Courier there are none. Anderson said her office only receives funds for the meals that are distributed. Last year, there was more money than usual (after Hurricane Ike), Anderson said, and that she cautioned center directors that it was not a permanent increase. What’s affecting Houston County, according to Anderson, is that available funds are going back to 2009 levels and additional cuts are expected with this session of the legislature. Cuts anticipated Anderson said there may be a 28 percent cut in funding to the centers. Enos said that in her efforts to seek assistance, she has spoken to Rep. Chuck Hopson and sent a message to Barton. She spoke to the Houston County Commissioners Court when it was formulating its 2011 budget. At that meeting, County Judge Lonnie Hunt instructed Enos to return to the center’s board of directors for funding guidance. Hunt told the Courier on Friday, Jan. 28, that the county gave the center, which is a non-profit corporation, $2,000 in 2005. He said the county’s contribution has increased to approximately $20,000 this fiscal year. Referencing the center, Hunt said, “It’s an extremely important program to our senior citizens, but it’s not sponsored by the county and we’re doing just about all we can do . . . with the economic times being what they are, and the budget being what it is.” Hunt said he certainly encourages others to do what they can to support the center. Enos said she has spoken to area service organizations and is available to speak again. She also has been in contact with Circle of 10 in Jacksonville, an organization that trains non-profits how to write successful grants. Volunteers needed Volunteers are also needed. Several volunteers have had to go to work during the past year. She also noted the center’s vehicles are getting older and need to be replaced. In addition to providing activities such as Bingo and singing at the Crockett senior center, lunch is served Monday through Friday to about 40 senior citizens. About 300 meals per day are delivered to individual homes. Enos said the center serves about 8,000 meals per month, with each meal costing between $7-$7.50 each to prepare. If area organizations would sponsor fundraisers, such as fried catfish dinners, those would be exempt from governmental menu restrictions, according to Enos. It costs about $12,000 per month to buy the necessary groceries for meals, and about $3,200 per month for milk. Enos noted milk is about to increase to about $3,600 per month. The increase, Enos said she has been told, is due to floods in Australia. Other needs at the center include paper goods and cleaning supplies. Enos is hopeful the community will share her passion for serving the county’s elderly, step up and meet the need for volunteers and help to raise the funds needed for the center. “It’s a sanctuary” for the county’s senior citizens, she said.

 

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