MOUNT MORRIS – Bobbi Jo Brandon has a real passion for the Mount Morris Senior Center.
Just ask her and she will tell you. Just make sure you have plenty of time on your hands.
Brandon has been the center's executive director for about a year now, and it has been a year of changes and growth. She said the center has a lot of programs for the community, and is working hard to get the word out.
Dr. Ed Baker, president of the center's board, said Brandon is not afraid to go out into the public and let people know about the center and what is has to offer.
“BJ is in your face,” he said with a chuckle.
Her enthusiasm has brought new faces and new programs to the center, which celebrates its 41st year this year. It was started by community members who saw a need for a senior center, and has always been in its current location – formerly the education wing of a Methodist church.
There have been struggles of course. But those differ depending on who you ask. Baker, for instance, said it is hard to convince people who are 65 these days that they are even senior citizens.
“Seniors are like 85 now,” Brandon agreed. “They aren't 65.”
But Brandon said the biggest issue is money, which comes from a variety of sources, including the county, village and United Way.
“That is a huge, huge, huge part of trying to run a senior center,” she said, adding that the center has an annual budget of about $110,000.
The good news is that the number of people using the center is increasing, considering not everyone in town even knew there was a senior center, said Barb Horner, a board member.
The monthly potluck used to draw 20 people, and now draws 50. About seven people used to show up for BINGO, and that number has tripled. And the coffee shop inside the center is becoming a great place for people to gather and chat.
There are currently 150 paid members, and an annual membership costs $25. They are always working to attract more members.
The focus on new programs has helped, Brandon said. Sure, there is BINGO and cards and billiards. But there are also popular day trips and programs centered on healthy living. These programs include fitness and nutrition, Brandon said. She said starting in July, there will be healthy cooking classes presented through the University of Illinois Extension at the senior center. And there is also a new walking club.
They have also done some work around the building, including painting the inside, adding a handicap accessible front door and fixing the sidewalk in the front of the building.
Most importantly, the center is open and ready for people to come in and enjoy it Monday though Friday from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
“We're open for business,” Baker said. “Somebody's here.”