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Council gives Senior Center OK to seek grant

"Oak Harbor Senior Services received a boost from the Oak Harbor City Council Thursday.The council OK'd a proposal by leaders of the Day Break program and Respite Adult Day Services to apply for a $25,000 grant. Mayor Patty Cohen signed a letter that allows Senior Services to apply for the grant from the Northwest Regional Council Area Agency on Aging.There's a lot of validity to the Day Respite Program, Cohen said. It's certainly proven its value, and I don't want it to go away or be eliminated.Bridget DeMuth, Director of Senior Services, and Jennifer Lamar, Program Coordinator for Day Break, made a presentation to the city council Tuesday about the need for more funding for the Senior Center. We want to maintain adult day care and move to adult health and relieve the city's financial burden, DeMuth said. It's a hard time for everybody when you want to move forward into the new millennium and you need to cut back.Lamar talked about the continuation and expansion of Day Break into a health-based program instead of just a social program. DeMuth discussed the Oak Harbor Senior Center Foundation's fund-raising campaign for the next three or four years and the necessity for additional staff at the Senior Center.We've been doing more and more, with less, for too long, DeMuth said. Day Break is a program designed to meet the needs of adults with functional impairments through an individual plan of care. The program currently services 18 people and allows a maximum of 21. The Adult Day Services program helps its participants function in the community and lends a hand to their families and caregivers. The whole purpose is to keep people out of institutions as long as possible, DeMuth said.Lamar wants to increase Day Break's operating hours from three to five days a week, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. She also wants to transform it into a health-based program so it can provide a wider array of services, as well as access money from Medicaid, Medicare and VA funding. This year, the program received $20,000 from the city for its $82,156 budget. The rest of the money comes from fees, services, fund-raisers and grants. Day Break charges participants fees of $8.50 per hour, or $42.50 per day. Program leaders are asking the city for $10,900 in 2001, and are seeking the same amount from Island County.Lamar said the city funds wouldn't be the first money spent. They would only be used to cover the program's deficit costs.The financial relief would help everybody versus just helping low-income people, Lamar said. Day Break currently operates out of the Oak Harbor Lutheran Church, which is across the street from Oak Harbor High School. The program needs to move to a temporary facility by the end of the year because the church needs the space.Senior Services' other goals include expanding the Senior Center in its current location (based on a revised and updated 1995 plan) and increasing the staff at the senior center by adding an administrative assistant/volunteer coordinator and a part-time activity assistant.Right now, the Senior Center has two staff members and 166 volunteers.They get burnt out, DeMuth said."

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