Editor’s note: This is one story in a series about local businesses in the City of Fairborn. This feature puts a face to the names of those that have been part of the community for many years – some of those best-kept secrets.
FAIRBORN – The Fairborn Senior Center was originally called the Senior Citizens Association of Metropolitan Fairborn, and was established Nov. 9, 1963 with 51 charted members. It is currently directed by Ellen Slone-Farthing, who started in March 2006.
Members originally met at a local house and several other locations over the years until 1990, when they received a grant from the state, in addition to a loan and donations, which put them into their current location. Part of the fundraisers for the center came from people who put their names on bricks for a donation and are on display in front of the center and flag pole area, and are still there today.
Their funding is dependent on Senior Services levy for Greene County, a contract with United Way Outreach, donations from the City of Fairborn and Bath township, as well as funds they raise themselves.
“We are a 501c3 and anyone wishing to include them in their donation legacy could contact me,” Slone-Farthing said. “Donations to the Senior Center is a great way of paying it forward for seniors.”
The center supports 27 part-time and two full-time employees; they have 100 volunteers between the different programs.
Slone-Farthing said some of the Senior Citizens Activities and programs include playing cards, learning crochet, french, guitar and dulcimer, which are educational items for seniors wishing to learn keeping their minds active. Exercise, fitness, yoga and dance classes are given to help seniors keep their bodies active. They have paid service of 16 homemakers who clean houses, run errands and prepare meals. All have background checks, drug tests and are bonded, so service is safe and worry-free. The center’s main focus is keeping seniors active and independent, so they can live in their own homes as long as possible.
It includes transportation from two vans and the donated Fairborn city car. The center just received word that it was approved for a grant to purchase a larger van that can hold nine passengers and two wheelchairs, but they must have a 20 percent match of $16,000 before next year, so center officials are conducting fundraisers to meet that goal.
“The vehicles are needed to transport seniors who no longer can drive or have no one to take them for medical, dialysis, social security resources in Xenia, groceries, banking, dental etc. so seniors can continue to go about a normal life style without feeling that they can’t care for themselves,” Slone-Farthing said.
Some of the drivers are retired military individuals who volunteer to transport the seniors. They are trained, and serve as individuals who meet the center’s greatest need.
Anyone over the age of 50 years old have dues that cost $20 for single membership and $35 for a couple. Slone-Farthing said prices are kept low so seniors can join, which gives them access to participate in activities, come to the facility and receive monthly newsletters. Membership to date is 1,028, but only about 35 percent attend or are regulars.
The facility great room holds 200 individuals, while the game room holds 40 and the arts and crafts room can house 15 and is open Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Some activities are held during the evenings, and the great room can be rented without membership; for rental information, contact Slone-Farthing.
“We have fun, we are family. Even though some may not have relatives here, we include them in our family,” Slone-Farthing said. “Some may need a shoulder to cry on or someone to listen – we are here for them no matter if the need is happy or sad – we are their support family.”
She feels that many people think the Senior center is just a place where seniors gather to go on trips and don’t understand that it provides transportation, outreach, homecare services and crisis situation, just to name a few.
The center recently experienced a crisis situation a few weeks ago, in which a senior had no food on a friday evening, so officials went into action to get her food so she could handle things until monday so she wouldn’t go hungry. Another senior had a daughter moved in with her, then late in the night the daughter took everything and left, leaving the senior nothing and no place to go. Officials went to work on getting her housing.
“I was on the board in 1994, was working at 5/3 Bank and my customers were seniors and all like parents,” Slone-Farthing said in regards to how she became the director. “They (the seniors) became close to my heart and my staff feels the same way – the center is family … My husband has gotten used to the staff and helps out. I probably wouldn’t see him much if it wasn’t for his support at the center.”
She feels that the center’s New Years Eve celebration, which takes place in the daytime with the ball dropping at noon is the most memorable event of the year. They dance, and Baby New Year, who is in a diaper, makes a surprise appearance. They have supported Fairborn Fourth of July Parade for eight years, but their goal is to win the Grand Marshall Award just once. Christmas in Action started six years ago, in which they go out and rehab low income disabled senior citizens homes with the support from local churches, businesses and volunteers. On the third Saturday in May, they repair and spruce up the home of a disabled individual, which they couldn’t do themselves. This gives them pride in their home and in the community. So far they have done more than 60 homes.
“We work with a lot with the businesses and clubs, like the Chamber, Rotary, Lions etc, trying to make Fairborn a better place,” Slone-Farthing said. “I feel that we are heading in the right direction and we support the community as well as the city.”
JoAnn Collins is a long-time resident of Fairborn and guest writer for the Fairborn Daily Herald.