Bert E. Sigsby Senior Center Closes Doors
“It came down to the numbers: the participation quota went up and the budget funding was cut,” said Jim Jansen, executive director of BRAD in Pocahontas. After years of trying to interest more Rector seniors (age 60+) in the programming at the Bert Sigsby Senior Center, the agency hit the wall that had been looming.
As of July 1, the center at 102 East First Street in Rector closed. The programming of the center was under the East Arkansas Area on Aging and administered by Black River Area Development (BRAD) out of Pocahontas.
“It’s pretty simple,” commented Rector Housing Authority director Michele Haley. “It’s been an uphill struggle for at least five years. Trying to increase the number of daily participants seemed a losing proposition.” Jansen said 20 is the current quota, the minimum average participants per day.
What began in July of 2004 as a vibrant, active group of senior participants numbering between 20 and 35 people dwindled to between eight and 12 participants. “It’s hard to argue with the numbers,” said Haley.
“The program included more than a mid-day meal; activities, social interaction, transportation kept people active and that’s part of a healthy life,” remarked the center’s president Jerry Chilcutt, who took on the paperwork responsibility for the past three years. “I was always encouraging people to come and join in, but many seniors did not seem interested.”
Kim Junkersfeld-Archer, who works closely with the Senior Wellness Centers in East Arkansas, remarked, “This is the very worst part of my job. I’ll really miss working with the Rector folks.” She echoed the sentiment of others noting cuts in senior programming budget and the Rector center lacking participation enough to justify the program. The eight to 12 seniors who took part at the center will lose the services provided there.
“What will not end,” she insisted, “is the Meals on Wheels program which provides noon meals for shut-ins. The meals will be delivered to the shut-ins out of the Piggott center.” The specific logistics have not been determined, but the meal service will continue, according to Jukersfeld-Archer.
Rector mayor Teresa Roofe remarked, “It’s (the closing) been coming. We’ve had our representatives lobbying to keep the center open for several years. When I talked with Rep. Joe Jett, he said he’d speak with the governor, but he offered little hope. It’s just sad.”