COVINGTON - Newton County Senior Services has come a long way since it opened its doors in 1970.
Starting out of a one-room office at the community room at the Covington Housing Authority, Executive Director Josephine Brown was the only one involved back then. She canvassed the community to generate interest in the organization, and slowly, word of mouth helped build membership. By the time Senior Services set up home base at the Turner Lake Complex in 1999, it was serving about 60 clients per year.
That number has increased to more than 2,500 as of May, Brown recently reported to county commissioners. That's an increase of more than 20 percent from last year alone.
Senior Services is so successful, in fact, that there is now a waiting list for almost every program they offer.
"There are more people moving into the community and people are more active now and people are retiring early," Brown said. "Those that have not sought additional employment or part-time employment are looking for something in terms of keeping well and fit. People are very health-conscious now."
In addition to offering exercise programs, Senior Services offers art and dance classes, a book club, a computer lab and health screenings.
The center also provides meals both in-house and via delivery. From July 2007 through January, there were 108 clients signed up for the in-house meals and 64 clients on the home delivery list.
During the last few years, Senior Services has also added services to meet the evolving needs of clients.
For example, a few years ago, a Kinship Program was started to provide support for seniors who are involved with raising young family members.
More recently, bi-monthly tours of key locations throughout the county were added to help educate newcomers about their new hometown.
Brown said there's an ever-increasing influx of seniors retiring to Georgia. Some are trying to get away from colder climates, others are coming here with their children and some who are still working are transferring with their jobs.
Whatever their situation, "Our goal is to keep them independent and self-sufficient," Brown said.
To accomplish that goal, in the future more space, money and, eventually, staffing will be needed, she said.
"My board of directors and I are in dialogue to consider how to approach the commissioners and the Department of Community Affairs and see what avenues we can explore for whatever expansion is necessary. I don't know if that will be at Turner Lake or something at another location, but it will hopefully be in the next couple of years," she said.
Senior Services operates under nine funding sources, including taxpayer dollars allocated by the Board of Commissioners, corporate donations and grants.
"With the economy like it is now, a lot of grants are not as plentiful, nor are donations from private foundations," Brown said.
For now, Senior Services is continuing to make the most use of the services it can now provide, relying on clients to provide feedback on any additional services they want.
"We have a lot of talented seniors in here who are willing to play an integral part of the day-to-day operations of the center," she said. "We have a lot of ideas to help supplement what we already have in place."
The Senior Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with activities for seniors typically taking place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 770-787-0038.
Crystal Tatum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.