Ah, the “golden years.” A wonderful time of life.

But when those “golden years” turn out to be not as smooth and shiny as expected, the Grant County Seniors Program can be a caring and helpful friend.

Fixed incomes, limited physical and mental abilities, isolation, and the loss of family and friends, are all factors that can adversely affect people in the senior season. They are also among the many ways the senior program can provide assistance.

Overseeing those services is program manager Veanne Weddle.

Weddle, who has led the program since 2011, takes on a multitude and variety of tasks. On any given day, she might be managing federal funds from nine programs, seeking out new services, presenting senior needs to the County Court or fielding phone calls with requests for energy or housing assistance.

If it can improve the lifestyle needs of seniors, Weddle, through the Grant County Senior Program, strives to achieve the goal.

A valuable component in the overall program are three senior centers in John Day, Prairie City and Monument. Aside from hiring cooks, Weddle isn’t involved in the details of those operations. Locals in each town – both volunteers and paid staff – are in charge of the meals, facility rental and arranging for servers, sponsors and gift donors. Inquiries on any of those services should be made directly to one of the centers.

However, Weddle is often at the John Day meals, and pays regular visits to the other two, making announcements, arranging for speakers and helping serve meals.

Providing hot, fresh, nutritious and delicious lunches every week is just part of the senior meal program. The meals offer an opportunity for seniors to socialize with others and keep in touch with the community, which can be difficult to do, especially in a rural area.

“It’s not just about the food – it’s the camaraderie, too,” said Weddle.

And weekly meals are NOT for seniors only. People of all ages are welcome to enjoy the family-style lunches. The centers are for everyone, too, and can be rented for a fee by local groups. A valuable asset to the community, they are often the local gathering place for a variety of functions: meetings, funeral potlucks, family reunions and other celebrations, community holiday dinners and more.

See the sidebar box for meal days/times, rental fees, contact information and more, for each of the centers.

The Grant County Senior Program was launched 40 years ago in John Day, in 1975. At that time, the group rented the Alec Gay Hall on Southwest Dayton Street in John Day, where they met for meals and other activities twice a week.

Two years later, the present John Day center on Northwest Dayton was built, opening for its first meal in July 1977.

According to Weddle, the program in John Day is funded through a trust established by Helen Bogart, and her late husband, Ken, which takes care of the day-to-day expenses, utilities and insurance.

Other funds for the meal program come from excess money the bingo board donates to the senior center board.

In the early years, the John Day facility was open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. With pool and card tables, lounging areas, and hot coffee often ready, it served as a daily hang out and gathering spot.

Today it’s open on a regular basis for senior meals two days a week, Mondays and Thursdays. The centers in Prairie City and Monument are open for meals once a week. The Monument center was built in 1994, on the site of an old grange hall. Longtime resident Jack Cavender donated adjacent property to add to the project.

The John Day cooking crew has added catering to their services. Meals can be arranged either at the John Day Senior Center or catered at another location. Anyone interested should call the John Day center for details.

Weddle also reminds people that the John Day center maintains a supply of durable medical goods available to loan out, such as canes, crutches, wheelchairs and more. There’s no warranty, and borrowers use the items at their own risk. The service is free, though donations are accepted.

Caring for our seniors and disabled community members is something in which we can all be involved, she said.

Weddle encourages the community to be watchful and aware of anything unusual. Neighbors, delivery people and shop clerks can all be vital eyes and ears if they notice something out of character with a person they know, such as confusion and forgetfulness at the check-out line, mail accumulating at a house, or simply an unexpected or lengthy absence of an elderly friend.

Anyone who sees something out of the ordinary can give her a call.

While exhausting, and seemingly endless in need, Weddle finds her job quite rewarding.

“People are appreciative and grateful,” she said. “And ready to help, if you just ask them.”

Grant County Senior Program hours are 7 a.m-5 p.m.

For assistance or questions, call 541-575-2949.

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