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Senior center designated Focal Point locale PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 13 January 2018 08:39

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By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times



Liberal Senior Center opened its doors in the late 1970s in the former home of the Liberal High School cafeteria.

For every year in three of the four plus decades since then, the senior center has also been designated as a Focal Point Center by the SouthWest Kansas Area Agency on Aging (SWKAAA).

The center was once again named a Focal Point Center for 2017 recently, joining 24 other centers across Southwest Kansas. The SWKAAA recognition is for highly visible facilities where anyone can obtain information and access to services for elderly individuals.

To a family caregiver and older Kansans, it is a well-known, accessible place to turn for information, services in the community and social opportunities.

To be considered for a Focal Point, a senior center has to meet minimum standards in 10 different program areas, including outreach to the community, center management, supportive services offered by the center and the center’s involvement in the community.

SWKAA Director Dave Geist said the needs of older adults in the community continue to change, and the Focal Point is a good measure of a center’s ability to stay current with these demands.

“Additionally, in this time of economic constraints, elected officials and taxpayers are demanding a greater accountability of how their aging mill levy funds are being spent,” he said. “This review process gives them a good snap shot of what they are getting.”

As for keeping up a tradition that has now been going strong since the award’s introduction in 1987, Liberal Senior Center Director Darlene Ford said she does not feel pressure, but rather excitement.

“The type of things that we offer qualify us for that standard,” she said. “To me, it’s just a matter of continuing to do what you do well and find things that you’re not doing that you can start offering. A good Focal Point center would be wanting to do that. If you want people to come, you need to be offering what they need.”

That excitement, Ford said, comes from senior center leaders keeping track of the things happening at the center.

“It’s something that at the end of the year, you look at just what you have accomplished,” she said. “I don’t usually go back and compare as to what was done previously. I tend to look at what did we do just in this last year and then evaluate each of these. For me, it’s an ongoing check. Every month, I want to check and see that we’re doing things that are needed.”

Because of what the Liberal Senior Center offers in terms of activities and offerings, Ford said the work that goes into becoming a Focal Point Center is pretty much an everyday process.

“It seems there’s something going on just about every day,” she said. “We get telephone days that are asking us from other groups and associations if they can come in and present types of things. Is this something that the seniors would want? Just about every day, I could get a telephone call or have a situation that we’re dealing with what we’re helping with here.”

Ford said for the most part, communication is the secret to continuing to offer what the senior center brings to its clients.

“We need to communicate with SouthWest Kansas Agency on Aging, but probably most importantly to be communicating with Seward County and find out to make sure that we’re doing the type of things that they’re needing,” she said. “Do we have the information here available, or do we know where to send them when they have a question? That’s why the communication is important. If someone comes and I don’t have an answer for them, I’m the first to say ‘Give me a day or two,’ or ‘Do you have a minute? Let me call somebody else because I think I know someone who might be able to answer that better than I.’”

Ford said extra excitement comes from getting to provide services to the clients of the Liberal Senior Center.

“Some folks, as they get elderly, don’t really know who to turn to anymore once you’re out of the workforce,” she said. “I think when people come or they call and are asking questions, it’s sometimes a difficult thing for them to do, to be asking, even it’s a simple question. I think that’s what keeps me going – the contact and the conversations that we get to have with the seniors.”

In 2017, the senior center received a new kitchen and celebrated its 40th anniversary. Though these were great accomplishments, Ford said both had little to do with this year’s Focal Point designation.

“The Focal Point, you receive points in different categories,” she said. “You have a minimum number of points in each of the categories. As far as us getting the kitchen and getting a higher rating, I don’t think it really had too much of a segue because we had already been doing that segment very well the way we were doing it. Now, we’ve just improved the way we do it. I don’t think in this particular assessment type thing that factored into it.”

With the Liberal Senior Center receiving the Focal Point award each year it has been in existence, Ford said the center is becoming somewhat of a “focal point” in its own right in Liberal.

“For those that know about the senior center, I think we would have a high percentage, maybe 85 percent, know that they can come here, and we’ll get them information on subjects that they’re questioning,” she said. “As far as those that don’t know about the senior center, I think that we have an opportunity to get the word out about what services and activities and things are available here at the center.”

Ford said she wants to encourage people to call the center at 624-2511 for themselves, parents and neighbors with any questions they may have.

“I’ve heard over the years people say ‘There’s never a dumb question,’” she said. “Let’s ask those questions, and we can get answers trying just to make life easier.”

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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