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Senior center changes name to Fairfield Community Center

ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo

The Fairfield Senior Citizen Center a few blocks south of the square has changed its name to the Fairfield Community Center.
ANDY HALLMAN/Ledger photo The Fairfield Senior Citizen Center a few blocks south of the square has changed its name to the Fairfield Community Center.

The Fairfield Senior Citizen Center has changed its name to the Fairfield Community Center.

The change was effective the first of the year. Community center board member Tom Thompson and the center’s fundraising coordinator Chris Conklin said there were a few reasons for the new name.

One reason is that the state is mandating that the board that oversees the center, the Jefferson County Area on Aging, change its name, because it was too similar to the name of a state agency, the Iowa Area Agencies on Aging. Thompson said that was a bit odd because, though the board had been around since 1977, the Iowa Department on Aging didn’t know it existed until recently.

The other reason is that the board wanted to drop “senior citizen” from the center’s name, because it seemed off-putting and gave the false impression that the building is some kind of assisted living center. Instead, the center wants to market itself as a venue for all ages.

“We want to host weddings, reunions or any event where people need a space bigger than their house,” Conklin said.

“It’s our feeling that there’s a negative connotation to ‘senior’ center,” Thompson said. “A lot of people would enjoy the socialization, cards and bingo, but they don’t know about it. When they hear ‘senior center,’ they think of a nursing home. We’re changing the name to make it more attractive.”

Business After Hours

The center is also becoming a new member of the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce. To celebrate this event and to usher in a new era, the center will host a Business After Hours and ribbon-cutting ceremony at 5 p.m. Jan. 17.

Funding

Milestones Area Agency on Aging has given the center $6,000 a year to go toward congregate meals five days a week. The money goes toward defraying the cost of the food, purchased from a food bank, and paying the cooks and the center’s administrator Susie Martin.

However, in July, Milestones announced that, because of federal funding cuts, it could no longer afford to pay the center $6,000. In October, Thompson and board member Francis Horn told the Jefferson County Supervisors that the center was losing $20,000 a year, and that without another funding source, the center could only stay open another year.

At the time, Thompson told the supervisors, “Any funding we can get we would appreciate. But as much as anything, we can see the handwriting on the wall that unless something doesn’t change, we’re going to have a very good, well-built building here that’s not going to be used in a short period of time.”

The county has been giving the center $6,000 directly on an annual basis. It has also given Milestones $9,100 annually, some of which goes to help the Fairfield Community Center but also to centers in the other 16 counties that Milestones covers.

Not all of the counties in Milestones coverage area give to the organization. Supervisor Lee Dimmitt said that Scott County, which contains Davenport, gives nothing to Milestones. In December, the Jefferson County Board of Directors approved a motion to discontinue funding Milestones, and instead give the money directly to the Fairfield Community Center.

Though Milestones will have to end its annual contribution of $6,000 a year, it has assured the center’s board that it will continue to provide congregate meals at the center and meals on wheels for shut-ins.

With the county supervisors’ assurance that it will make up the lost funding from Milestones, Thompson feels better about the center’s future, but he knows more must be done.

“We need roughly $40,000 a year to operate, and if you’re only taking in $20,000, that doesn’t work,” he said.

Other sources

The center has received money from the city of Fairfield in the form of Local Option Sales Tax, but not for a few years. The council has shifted toward awarding LOST money to applicants that generate sales tax, which the Fairfield Community Center does not.

The center makes some money through one-time rentals for events like weddings and family reunions, as well as recurring customers like Weight Watchers or Fairfield Farmers’ Market, which uses it every Saturday during the winter.

“We’re trying very hard to rent the downstairs,” Thompson said, referring to the office space below the kitchen and meeting room. “We’ve had a hard time getting a long-term tenant there.”

Thompson was a tenant there himself, interestingly. For one year during its early stages, his CPA business rented the downstairs unit of the Fairfield Community Center.