City steps up to adminster Wednesday Senior Fellowship

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Helping to preserve the 40-year tradition of Wednesday Senior Fellowship are volunteers Marilyn Pentico, left, and Darrold E. Huff, center, and newly hired cook Kathy Peterson.

Acting to save the popular Wednesday Senior Fellowship program at the McCreary Community Building, the Perry City Council voted Monday to establish a special fund in order to administer the program as a city activity.

The new Special Perry Senior Fellowship Fund was proposed by Perry Parks and Recreation Director John Anderson and Perry Finance Officer Susie Stoner Moorhead. Anderson told the council that bringing the program under city control will standardize its bookkeeping and make it easier to seek grant funding.

“In order to sustain Wednesday Fellowship, to keep having it every Wednesday, I really feel like this needs to happen,” Anderson told the council. He said the idea for the new arrangements came out of his discussion with the volunteer organizers of the 40-year-old meal-and-entertainment program.

“A month ago we lost the cook who typically does Wednesday Fellowship,” Anderson said. “The board came to me and asked me to help find another cook. Through our discussion, I came to urge them to go this route, to let me take over because we have a system of checks and balances, and they really don’t.”

The Wednesday Senior Fellowship was founded about 40 years ago at the First United Methodist Church. Today some 60 to 80 seniors each pay $5 a week to attend the program, which operates for seven months each year at the MCB. Once a month, the program features a speaker or entertainer.

Standardizing the fellowship program’s accounting will “legitimize the whole thing,” Anderson said, making it simpler to advertise open positions, promote the program at local nursing homes, develop new programming and apply for grants — the 35-year-old dishwasher and kitchen cupboards, for instance, are overdue for replacement.

The loss last year of longtime Wednesday Fellowship accountant Jim Haas was a big change for the program, and this year’s loss of the longtime cook brought the whole arrangement into doubt. That was when Anderson offered to have the city take it on.

“We can’t let it go away, and that’s where it was going,” he told the city council. “It was going down the road where it was just not going to happen anymore, so it was either we step up and do it directly and keep it going, or it was going to stop. I just didn’t feel like it was right to let that thing go away, and this is the only way to do it.”

Marilyn Pentico of Perry, a longtime Wednesday Fellowship volunteer who schedules the monthly entertainments, said making the program an official city activity seems to make good sense.

“If this will keep the program going, then it’s a change we can all live with,” Pentico said.

Anderson said a new cook has been found in the person of Kathy Peterson, now a part-time city employee. Peterson is currently attending ServSafe training classes in Altoona, leading to accredited food-safety certification from the National Restaurant Association.

“This is really to set it up so that it’ll last forever,” Anderson said. “By doing this, we’ll collect the money and put it into this restricted fund, and we’ll operate off of that, no different from what’s happening now. The board who is currently doing it will stay in place. All the volunteers will stay in place. It’s just how the money works is something that we should probably be doing.”

If this week’s event was any indication, then nothing in the externals has changed in the Wednesday Senior Fellowship program. Diners paid their usual $5, and Dr. Randy McCaulley played a pleasant half-hour’s worth of holiday songs prior to the midday meal, which consisted of meatloaf, baked potato, mixes vegetables and a fruit cup.

Anderson said the fellowship committee seemed happy to relinquish its bookkeeping duties.

“They’re all really excited that they don’t have to deal with it anymore,” he said.

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