The center will benefit from the levy funds. (Susan Riemer/Staff Photo)

The center will benefit from the levy funds. (Susan Riemer/Staff Photo)

County awards $84,000 to Vashon Senior Center

Vashon’s Senior Center recently received some good news from King County: an $84,000 grant from the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy.

Last week, when King County announced the grants, the center’s Executive Director Catherine Swearingen expressed appreciation for the funds and the work they will make possible at the center, which operates on a $240,000 annual budget.

“This was a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for us to make some capital improvements and some infrastructure investments,” she said.

The funding will support new IT systems, senior volunteer transportation services, in-home aide training for seniors and an inclusion assessment survey, according to the King County press release.

Board President Susie Kalhorn said that the funds will allow the center to purchase a new stove, ideally with a convection oven and electric starter instead of pilot light, enabling the center to more readily rent out the space for those who need a commercial kitchen. The center will also purchase new computers and a software system built for the organization to make it easier to track program usage and report those numbers to the county. A big-screen TV for the center’s frequent movie gatherings is also on the list, as well as furniture for another conversation area at the center. Funds to help island caregivers travel off island for licensing courses were also included.

“In a couple areas, it was definitely a game changer,” Swearingen said.

However, both she and Kalhorn stressed that while the county funds are a big boost for the center, they do not support programming, including the Neighbor to Neighbor program, which provides volunteers to help seniors age in place, the Bluebird transportation program, which provides transportation to seniors to off-island medical appointments, and the Care-a-Van, which brings elders to lunch at the center. Islanders’ support for those offerings remains essential, they said.

“(The grant) sounds like a whole lot of money and it is, but the crux of the senior center is programming, which is reliant on community support, and that has not changed,” Kalhorn said.

King County’s press release stated that by 2040, more than a quarter of King County’s population will be seniors. To that end, the county is preparing for the region’s growing senior population by stabilizing senior centers with nearly $3.5 million to enhance facilities, improve outreach and accessibility for underserved or isolated seniors and support program enhancements.

This round of funding went to 38 organizations serving older adults throughout King County. It is the first round of funds provided by the Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy, which voters renewed in 2017.

“The people of King County trusted us to invest in programs and services that will improve the quality of life for seniors, and that is exactly what we are doing,” said Executive Dow Constantine, in the press release.

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