State Grants Benefit Area Senior Centers

Thursday, December 5, 2013
On hand for the check presentation at the Piggott Senior Center were, from left: Parks and Recreation Director Shannon Williams, State Rep. Joe Jett, State Senator Robert Thompson, Piggott Mayor Gerald Morris (back), Senior Center Director Nicole Tinsley, Garnetta Galyean, James King, Maggie Parrish, Linda Wyss, Freda Mark, Rosa Davis and June Chronister.

Christmas came a little early for the senior centers in Rector, Piggott and Corning. The three sites received special visits not from jolly old St. Nick Monday, but from Sen. Robert Thompson. The senator's gifts to the centers came from an inconspicuous envelope rather than a magical bag of presents, but those in attendance were still filled with youthful excitement. The visits were held to present each center with a grant in the amount of $5,000 from the state of Arkansas.

During the 2013 legislative session, Sen. Thompson sponsored legislation, which became Act 365, providing funding for capital improvements for senior citizen centers throughout the state. On Monday, the senator visited the three Clay County sites to disburse their shares of the funds.

"The senior centers in Rector, Piggott and Corning are vital institutions that serve senior citizens in these communities," Thompson said. "I am glad to have assisted in advancing their worthy projects."

Jerry Chilcutt (left), president of the Bert E. Sigsby Senior Wellness Center's seniors committee, receives a grant check in the amount of $5,000 from Sen. Robert Thompson. Rep. Joe Jett (second from right) and Rector Chief of Police Glenn Leach (far right) joined area seniors in celebrating the presentation Monday.

Once the legislation passed, the funds were disbursed to the East Arkansas Area Agency on Aging and the Black River Area Development corporation. These funds, in turn, were then set aside for improvements at the local senior centers.

The senator explained the grants came from Arkansas' General Improvement Funds, which is part of the budget surplus appropriated by the legislature earlier this year. He noted Arkansas is one of few states to have had a budget surplus, noting the efforts of state leaders in making such grants possible.

"Because Governor Beebe and the legislature were conservative with budgeting over the past year, we enjoyed a budget surplus that can now be used to help organizations like senior citizens' centers," Sen. Thompson said.

Thompson was joined in the presentations by Rep. Joe Jett of Success, who supported the effort in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

The grants will be put to good use locally.

"It's been a struggle every year," Rector center director Judy Grubb said. "Three or four years ago, we thought we were going to be shut down. Today, we received $5,000! It's just wonderful!"

Grubb and a committee of seniors are considering ways to improve the Rector site.

At Piggott, director Nicole Tinsley noted improvements such as an awning for the handicap accessible entrance, new card tables, a karaoke machine, ice maker and popcorn machine are being considered for purchase through the grant funds.

Participants at all three local centers encourage anyone over the age of 60 to participate in ongoing senior center events. In addition to nutritious meals, each site provides invaluable fellowship, activities, informative meetings and good, old-fashioned fun for area senior citizens.

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