By Meg Dickens
The Johnson County Senior Center has been around for nearly four decades. Public awareness rose three years ago when Kathy Motsinger took over as director.
In this short amount of time, member numbers rose by nearly 800 and continue to rise. Motsinger has brought in an era where people cannot wait to become seniors.
In her 3 years, Motsinger and company have remodeled the center kitchen, replaced the transport van, replaced old van seats with new furniture, added new exercise equipment, made a meeting space, created a small library, painted the building, and purchased a new sound system, laptops, and two large televisions for center use. She also schedules senior trips. Seniors go on a lot of day trips and the occasional overnight trip. However, Motsinger has several larger trips planned for 2019. These include Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, Niagara Falls, Toronto, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon. These trips are mostly full, and some have waiting lists.
Motsinger attributes the center’s success to volunteers, sponsors, donations, and grants.
“The volunteers are redefining what volunteering means. They go above and beyond to help out,” said Motsinger. “ You don’t realize how many people serve here.”
One example is the bus drivers. Terry Hodge, Robert Wilson, and Dennis Henson do a lot more than just transport seniors. They help with shopping carts, hold bags, and even stop to treat the riders to ice cream. MyRide Volunteer Coordinator Danae Marshall does her regular tasks while helping around the center. Marshall also uses her LPN experience to give free blood pressure checks weekly.
MyRide TN Johnson County is a new program launched at the end of October 2018. MyRide is based at and strongly intertwined with the center although it is not technically a center program. The program’s results speak for themselves. Volunteer driver numbers doubled from the original 10 to 21. MyRide is only 61 trips away from
meeting its 3-year goal in less than a year. MyRide’s popularity has not been detrimental to the center. Many new riders join the center after seeing the seniors in action.
The Johnson County Senior Center has advanced a lot in the last few years, but there is a lot of change outsiders cannot see. The seniors are continually improving their mental and physical health. The center offers a wide variety of health-related services such as diabetes classes, the Silver Sneakers exercise program, health fairs, support groups, free blood pressure readings biweekly, and more. Programs such as the new Veterans’ Cafe allow seniors to connect with others in the same circumstances. Physician Dr. Daniel Jones noticed the positive difference the center makes.
Motsinger has a lot of plans for the center. Currently, the biggest problem is lack of space. New people sign up daily. Generous donations jumpstarted a covered deck project in correlation with Heritage Square. This project adds a little more space and should be complete by the end of March. The next project will be more handicap accessible bathrooms.
There is an untapped resource at the center.
There is an upstairs, which could be the answer to the space issue. This floor would be ideal for events or a recreational room. The only problem lies in funding. It will require a lot of repairs. The two most important are replacing the dropout ceiling and installing an elevator. These renovations are necessary to make the area safe and accessible to seniors. Funding and volunteers are always needed.