High-lighting the Keenager Senior Program
Within the first week of a new appointment to Fulton Heights Citadel in July 2019, A/Captains Mika & Grace Roinila were surprised to learn that a Seniors Program that was started some 16 years ago is recognized as the best program of its kind in Kent County, Michigan! And according to The Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan who supports many programs in the region, the Fulton Heights Citadel program is one of the best in the state of Michigan. So much so, that other non-profit agencies and seniors programs look to Fulton Heights to learn about our best practices that have been implemented elsewhere. And because the AAAWA has supported the work of The Salvation Army for years, they are in an excellent position to provide objective evaluations of programs in the region that needs to be shared.
According to Program Director Renee Ambriz, it always hasn’t been easy. “I’ve been with the program since the beginning, and we used to have only a few seniors in the program. Over the years, we’ve improved our programming and increased our reach in the community.” The program has always met on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays in the Fellowship Hall of the Fulton Heights Citadel. Some of the 80-100 Seniors who come out three times a week begin to arrive as early at 8:30am to take advantage of some early morning exercise programming where people walk around the gymnasium, and do some movement & motion activities with qualified instructors. At 10am there is a Diabetes Education class and a Bible Study, both of which attract full classes. By 11am there ever-popular Bingo takes place in the Fellowship Hall. Participants earn coupons from participating in all types of activities that can be later turned in for food items that the seniors take home to replenish their supplies. For a $2 donation that is sought from seniors, everyone is offered a nutritious lunch, and nobody leaves hungry. “Our experience with the seniors has been wonderful” says A/Capt. Grace Roinila. “We’ve had lunch with the seniors, and it’s always nice to talk with them. It’s a joy to participate in some of their activities. I’ve enjoyed walking and exercising with them, and the Family Feud games are just great. We have a wonderful staff!” After lunch there is entertainment, ranging from educational talks to musical acts performed by soloists or bands! The program end by 2pm and seniors are picked up by several Go-buses and other vehicles that transport people from their homes to Fulton Heights and back.
The single largest event of the year is the annual Christmas Dinner. On Wednesday, December 18 some 180 people packed the gymnasium, as a few dozen volunteers served a full-course meal to the seniors. Santa brought gifts, and a full-blown Dixieland band entertained the audience.
It’s no wonder the program receives accolades from community organizers. And while advertising and marketing isn’t part of the plans to promote the program, Renee Ambriz is quick to note that “We rely on word-of-mouth. People tell each other, and we have new people coming almost weekly.” Seems to me that this program is a well-kept secret among many, including The Salvation Army. We need to do more to recognize and celebrate our accomplishments. It’s about time we share with others in our Territory. We thank Central Connection for making this a possibility.