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Alpena Senior Center events planned; transportation funding ‘at a critical point’

ALPENA ­– It’s National Senior Center Month, and local officials want the community to learn more about the services they provide to Alpena County seniors.

Several events are planned this week and month at Alpena Senior Citizens Center, starting at noon on Tuesday with the dedication of the Alzheimer’s Garden and Peace Pole, as part of the Alpena Peace Coalition’s 30 Days of Peace.

The Alzheimer’s Garden is a place dedicated to those who are suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s. It gives them a place to plant seeds, tend to flowers, relax and enjoy nature.

“We got a grant through the community foundation; it’s called Enriching Pathways,” Program Manager B.J. Sander said.

“Too much stimulation for a person with dementia is not good, so decreasing the stimulation, being out in nature, observing the natural surroundings, all those things help them,” said Annie Hepburn, center director.

“It’s really quite peaceful out there,” Sander added.

The Peace Pole will be dedicated to Alzheimer’s awareness as well. Sept. 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day.

“This day is aimed at raising awareness and challenging the common stigma that surrounds Alzheimer’s related dementia,” Hepburn said in this month’s newsletter.

Two informational meetings are planned to let the community know what the senior center offers. A breakfast from 7 to 8 a.m. this Wednesday will be for politicians and local officials. Then the public is invited to an informative open house with hors d’oeuvres from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 25. To attend, RSVP by Sept. 20 by calling 989-356-3585.

“The purpose of both of those events is awareness, education, for people to know really what we do here, and some of our struggles that we have,” Hepburn explained. “So, we are funded through grants, both state and federal, but 30 percent of our funding has to come from fundraising and donations.”

The center provides transportation for Alpena County seniors to medical appointments, but if no funds are raised, those services will be cut off Oct. 1 through Dec. 31, until funding kicks back in on Jan. 1.

“Right now, we’re at a critical point,” Hepburn said. “We get funds from NEMCSA, we get funds from the Older Persons Committee.”

She said the fiscal years end one in September, and one in December.

“So we have some funding that goes through the end of the year that we have to survive on,” Hepburn said.

September is also Hunger Action Month.

“We provide meals to the seniors 60 and over in Alpena County for a suggested donation of $3.50,” Hepburn said. “Our average donation right now for home delivered meals is $1.10. And our congregate meals is an average of $2.87.”

The center prepares and delivers roughly 5,000 Meals-On-Wheels to seniors, and serves more than 1,400 congregate meals on a monthly basis.

“We know that people financially struggle, but in the long run, we still want to provide all of our services that we can,” Hepburn said.

“I think a lot of people in our community are under the misconception that, they believe that the government totally funds us for everything that we need,” Sander added. “And that’s not true.”

The senior center is located at 501 River St. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit www.alpenaseniors.com.

“We are the resource hub for the seniors in Alpena County, and we provide a lot of programs and services, and we just never want to cut any of those,” Hepburn said.