After devastating funding cuts in June 2019, the Marshall County Senior Citizens board prepared for closure--but after seven months of working closely with a group of community members, the organization is rising from the ashes. The community at large is invited to come see what the revitalized group is all about and tour the renovated "Caring Community Center" which houses the senior citizens group.
The grand reopening celebration is Jan. 8 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. at 1713 Golf Course Road in Benton, offering refreshments, a tour and a chance to chat with the members about the new, exciting changes ahead for the group. A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled to take place around noon.
Greg Carlton, a Marshall County Senior Citizens board member, said, "We're just so tickled to have the support of the community and those who have been involved, and we feel so blessed."
The inside of the building has fresh paint on the walls in the main areas and in the offices; the floors have been stripped and waxed and the kitchen floors are now coated with epoxy; the entire facility has been cleaned top to bottom. In the near future, Carlton said, they're looking into a ventilation system for the kitchen and what requirements they need to meet for a functioning cooking space; they're also planning more landscaping, taking down the old tower, a new flag and signage out front and eventually resurfacing the parking lot.
Carlton said the board has also been discussing during its weekly meetings ways in which the group can become more self-sufficient financially, including new ways to fundraise. They're in the process of obtaining a gaming license to host Bingo games and the board anticipates hosting on a monthly basis to start. But they may host more frequently if participation is high, he added.
Once the kitchen is up to code, he said, the board is considering hosting a monthly breakfast, offering country ham and biscuits. And they're working on making the space more appealing for rental when it's not in use by the seniors--for parties, weddings, showers and reunions.
"We're sort of taking a crawl-before-we-walk approach," Carlton said. "We're getting geared up for the long term and working to be self-sufficient by June 30 so we're no longer relying on funding from politically-motivated organizations."
The senior citizens board took a hard hit in June 2019 when it learned the Marshall County Fiscal Court planned to slash the funding available for nonprofit organizations and later awarded the group $30,000, which was a fraction of what it had received in the past. The board had to cease providing Meals On Wheels to local elderly shut-ins, which was later picked up by McCracken County Senior Citizens--and for a time considered shutting its doors altogether.
But a group of approximately 20-30 Marshall County community members, business and local government leaders banded together and met weekly for the last seven months to save, rebrand and resurrect the group they believe is so vital in providing necessary resources and fellowship.
Along the lines of fellowship, Carlton said the board is working to obtain corn hole boards and other popular games for activities with the senior citizens group. He noted the Hardin Senior Citizens group, which only received $7,500 from the fiscal court's nonprofit grant funding, recently closed and following closure decided to join the group in Benton. They're bringing with them from the facility in Hardin a pool table and a piano, among other things.
Carlton said the board is also looking into obtaining computers for the center so the board can provide lessons in use of modern technology and the internet for those who may not already be familiar.
"This group that's been doing the heavy lifting for so long, they're 80 and over but they still have a lot to offer and a lot to give back and they're excited to be part of something that gives back to the community and adds positivity to the lives of the people we care about," he said. "Once we get to a certain age we feel out of sight and out of mind--we don't want anyone to feel or think that way of themselves or like they're unloved or under-appreciated."
"We want to bathe them in caring, compassionate support that gives them energy and a board that calls to action our community," he added. "The Caring Community Center is not just for 'traditional seniors' ages 50-60, it's not a place that's limited to a certain age. If you need caring, compassionate relationships, come and see us."
More information about the center, how to join or how to get involved, is available by calling Carlton at 270-703-1640 or Ken Lewis at 270-252-5927.