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  • Last modified 2533 days ago (Dec. 8, 2011)

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Agape deserves better

Rules and regulations of the United States Government are strangling rural America, and it is happening right in front of us in Marion County.

Several months ago, the Joyful Noise Day-care center in Goessel closed due to financial problems directly related to trying to meet government regulations for such a business.

Now the Agape Senior Center in Goessel seems to be facing the same fate. Maybe board members should think “blue” and consider a partnership with the elementary school next door.

It was not long ago, that the North Central Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging fired Goessel’s manager and cook. Reasons for the changes were not made public, but one might guess it had something to do with funding for the positions, veiled behind personality differences or unattainable standards.

It is interesting to note that the Marion Senior Center, governed by the same agency, is now without a cook as well.

It is no secret to those who live in Goessel, that senior center attendance has dwindled over the years. A variety of reasons could be to blame, the most prevalent being the fact that there are simply fewer elderly in rural populations these days. Another reason could be that those who might be “of age” to benefit from government assistance services are fiercely independent and do not want to be locked into a daily regime of existence just to get a hot noon meal.

Local church announcements shared by Agape director Jenny Girard stated that the center must raise daily lunch count numbers to 44 people served or the agency would force them to close their doors. Pleas for local volunteer board members have been issued frequently as well.

Some help has come forth, but I wonder if the real problem can be solved as long as government rules and regulations have to be followed.

Why should Goessel be punished for not having enough people to serve each day at noon? Most likely those head-count parameters were established in cities with larger population centers. We probably do not have 44 people who need lunch on a daily basis in the rural town of Goessel. However, those that want it should have a right to it, regardless of how many others join them.

Maybe, instead of wringing hands and fighting a losing battle, Goessel Agape senior center board members should look outside the box for existence answers.

Since the cook was fired and a new one could not be found willing to work for low pay and sparse benefits, meals have been provided by neighboring Marion County senior centers. Thanks to those other centers for sharing, but it is unrealistic to expect those who meet at the center because of difficulty traveling or getting around, to make food runs to other towns over 15 miles away, especially when bad weather hits.

I think the Agape Senior Center should ditch the agency currently choking it to death and investigate some shared possibilities with the school next door.

Why can’t Goessel senior center members get their meals from the public school right out their building’s back door? Without a doubt, Goessel Elementary school employs the very best cooks in the area. I have eaten there through the years with my children and highly recommend the place for inexpensive, nutritious, and very delicious meals. The meals are very affordable as well.

A mid-morning notification to the school could net some delicious meal opportunities for whomever, and however many people were interested on that particular day.

Seniors could meet earlier in the day at the Agape center for billiards, quilting, crafts, or exercise on designated mornings, and then pile into the Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church van stored in their garage for a quick trip over the elementary school for lunch.

They might enjoy the noise level and enthusiasm of the elementary lunchroom, and they might even be asked to share in possible extended learning activities there.

Elderly citizens have valuable life experience that could be utilized for lessons at the school in return for lunchroom space. What about teaching youngsters some Low German phrases? New readers love a listening ear, and how about mini pullout sessions for knitting or crocheting classes? I am sure children would love to hear stories about what it was like to be a kid 60 or more years ago.

The sky can be blue when the lid of any box is removed, especially in Goessel. The Agape center might need to close temporarily to shake the stranglehold of government rules, but it should open again with a new outlook and attitude. Our elderly citizens deserve more respect and care than they are currently getting from the agency set in place to help them. I hope they can continue to be a proud part of a rural community with the logo, Small Town, Big Heart.

I hope thinking outside the box will yield some workable answers for a very important segment of our society.

— Jennifer stultz

Last modified Dec. 8, 2011

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