Editor's Note: This is the next in a series of articles about the member agencies of the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley.
BELPRE - Funding from the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley allows the city of Belpre and the O'Neill Center in Marietta to offer important and valuable services through the Belpre Senior Center.
Susie Casto, manager of the Belpre site, said the partnership allows the city to manage and maintain the building itself while the O'Neill Center provides staff and programs.
Photo by Wayne Towner
The Belpre Senior Center on Washington Boulevard offers a variety of activities and programs for seniors in the Belpre community. The center nearly doubled in size this year, providing more space for activities and meetings.
The arrangement began in 2008 and Casto said the center continues to see increases in attendance and participation. Casto said the $7,500 in funding from the United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley allows the city and O'Neill Center to continue the contract each year.
"The United Way support is critical to operations here," Casto said. "That money supports the contract between the city of Belpre and the O'Neill Center to provide the management and the staff here."
Casto said the purpose of the center is to "keep seniors H.I.P.," an acronym meaning healthy, independent and productive.
Through the efforts of the O'Neill Center and area partners such as Marietta Memorial Hospital, the Belpre Senior Center offers health classes and consultations. The center also stresses physical activity and community service, through activities like tai chi classes, low-impact aerobics and chair volleyball.
"The theme is 'motion is lotion,' staying active, whatever that means for you as long as you're more active today then you were yesterday. You can't go wrong keeping a stronger body," Casto said.
There are classes to teach new skills, such as learning about computers. The center also offers numerous social events, from twice-weekly lunches to bingo nights and other special activities, which help increase socialization and contact among the participating seniors.
"Routinely, you will have anywhere from 50 to 65 coming to lunch and then they play cards in the afternoon, they play billiards, Wii, cornhole - it's a gathering place," she said.
Charlotte Stalnaker, of Belpre, has been participating in programs at the Belpre Senior Center for one year. She first came to the center last December to watch a grandchild perform in a holiday music program and got drawn into a game of chair volleyball. She has been returning to the center regularly since that time, often visiting up to four days a week to play chair volleyball and to do other activities.
"I think it's awesome," she said of the Belpre Senior Center and its programs. "There's no better word I can use."
A diabetic, Stalnaker said the physical activity she does in the chair volleyball program and others has brought about a measurable improvement in her health, as evidenced by the results of her most recent medical visit which showed positive changes in several areas.
"I'm hoping to get into the beginner's tai chi," Stalnaker said of new activities she would like to get involved in, along with playing cards.
After almost a year of construction, the Belpre Senior Center opened its new expansion in June, adding 1,500 square feet of available space to the center to help accommodate current and future programs at the center.
The costs of the roughly $130,000 expansion was paid for with funds from the city of Belpre, Washington County Senior Levy, the Belpre Community Foundation, the Bernard McDonough Foundation, the Marietta Community Foundation and the Belpre Senior Club.
Casto said she is waiting for the end of the year to see if the expansion has brought in more people, but she has definitely seen an increase in interest from the regular visitors to the center since it has allowed more activities and also provided additional space for more - and sometimes more convenient - scheduling of existing activities.