Congratulations to the five senior centers that achieved National Senior Center Accreditation in June 2019

The Frank Bailey Senior Center, J. Charley Griswell Senior Center, and the Kinship Care Resource Center, all under the Clayton County Senior Services Department, Georgia, achieved their first accreditation. A fourth accreditation was achieved by Newark Senior Center, Delaware and a third by Vesper Hall 50-Plus Community Center in Blue Springs, Missouri.

The Clayton County Senior Services Department, a department of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, provides services to the Clayton County senior population. They have two senior recreation centers, the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center in Jonesboro and the Frank Bailey Senior & Fitness Center in Riverdale, as well as the Kinship Care Resource Center, located at the Shelnutt Inter-generational Center in Jonesboro for grandparents raising grandchildren. They also have older adult programs at the Clayton Senior Adult Program in Riverdale and at an Aging Services center in Jonesboro.

In 2009, Clayton County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution making Senior Services an independent department, no longer operating und the Parks and Recreation Department. This decision was made to ensure that the senior adults in the country were receiving the full benefits of services offered by a specialized department. The Senior Services department also includes in home services for senior adults providing for a continuum of community care for senior adults.

The mission of the Senior Services Department is to deliver services and programs that promote independence and dignity and enhance the quality of life while providing a safe and caring environment for older adults, relative caregivers, and grandchildren.

Frank Bailey Senior Center

The Frank Bailey Senior Center is located in Riverdale, GA which is an urban/suburban community located 13 miles south of Atlanta. Riverdale has a population of 15,134 people with a median age of 32.7 years. The 25,000 square foot Center opened April 25, 2002 giving older adults a place for learning, exercising, and interaction in the Riverdale area.  The opportunities for learning include health lectures, computer training, as well as aquatic programs in the indoor, heated therapy pool.  The center employs both staff and volunteers to ensure that classes, programs, recreational activities are facilities effectively and efficiently.   The center is open Monday – Friday from 8am – 5pm and Thursday until 8pm serving 1,671 members with an average of 178 participants daily.

The Frank Bailey Senior Center is a multi-purpose senior center which has a computer lab, full service cafeteria, fitness center, fitness class rooms, arts & crafts room, billiards and a therapy pool. Their programming consists of aquatic, fitness, dance, art/crafts, computer classes, clubs, trips.

Additionally, the Senior Nutrition Program is available to promote a healthy lifestyle to seniors 60 and older through health and wellness programming and to provide nutritious, low cost meals (voluntary contribution) in a congregate setting for older adults. 

The Peer Reviewer observed many strengths of the Frank Bailey Senior Center.  These included:

  • The team comradery of Clayton County Senior Services staff is impressive.
  • The focus, work ethics, passion and implementation of the accreditation plan should be celebrated. The staff collectively knows their jobs and is living the mission.
  • It is apparent when speaking with the membership, as well. Family is a term that was used often.
  • There is a strong relationship between administration, the county and the Frank Bailey Senior Center. That is not something that is seen everywhere.
  • The program offerings were wide and a nice variety. There was something for everyone: therapy pool, fitness center, arts (sculpting), fitness classes, recreation, trips, educational, gardens.
  • The facility accommodates the many offerings and the scheduling is appropriate.
  • The focus groups held each month at the senior centers is a good practice as it allows for members to have access to managers as well as have an organized formal time for staff to gather feedback from members.
  • The center has a very dedicated committed advisory council. They help in fundraising as well as program planning such brainstorming programming for men and setting up

J. Charley Griswell Senior Center

The J. Charley Griswell Senior Center is located in the City of Jonesboro, Clayton County, Georgia. The population of Jonesboro, GA is 4,729. Jonesboro has two senior centers, Griswell and Kinship centers. Clayton county is located just south of Atlanta and has suburban areas and rural areas. There are several small towns clustered together and the Griswell Center pulls members/participants from all of these areas. The county population is 259,424.

The Griswell Center opened its doors in August 2006 as a project funded by Special Purpose Local Sales Tax ( SPLOST). It is a multi-purpose senior center which has a computer lab, full service cafeteria, fitness center, exercise classrooms, arts and crafts, billiards, educational classrooms, library area, therapy pool, demonstration kitchen, 2 lobby areas as well as outdoor areas including gardening plots, porches and walking areas. The center has a large parking lot, with overflow parking in other areas of the park.

The center is located on a knoll amid a large area of trees. The exterior resembles a lodge with wood and stone materials. It has a large entry way with automatic sliding doors opening into a large lobby. The check in and office counter is located to the right. The center has one large hallway extending in both directions from the lobby. The lobby has a fireplace with seating and windows looking into the forest. Passing through the lobby brings you to an outdoor porch made of stone. Additional seating areas are located here along with raised gardening beds. The lobby also has a staffed registration area.

Inside, moving down either left or right hallways off the lobby there are various rooms. The left wing houses many of the exercise rooms and ends with the large therapy pool. The other hallway to the right houses education classrooms, a library area, card playing area, Quilting room, demonstration kitchen ending with the full service cafeteria. The cafeteria is a large area with a stage and also doubles as the line dance room due to the large class size (approx. 50). The facility is clean, well appointed and easy to find you way through the building.

The center offers a variety of programming meeting most programming standard. The center serves 1956 individuals with an average daily attendance of 490.

The Peer Reviewer observed many strengths of the J. Charley Griswell Senior Center. 

These included:

  • The J. Charley Griswell Center offers an excellent programming schedule at the center. The programming is varied, and the center is active and busy although the day. The center has a very nice size therapy pool larger than most, allowing for larger exercise groups. Programing is a strength and validated by the recent NISC Best Practice award received by the senior center.
  • The floor plan of the center is well designed, and it is easy to find one’s way through the center. The hallways are very wide and allow for socialization to occur as well as ease of passage. The centers classrooms and activity areas are located down one long wide hallway extending to the right and left of the lobby.
  • The Center includes a demonstration kitchen which allows for teaching cooking skills and introducing many potential nutrition programs such a Cooking Matters. The center also has a great gardening program allowing possible coordination with cooking classes.
  • The staff of J. Charley Griswell Center and the Senior Services Department are very knowledgeable, experienced and highly committed to the people they serve. Their commitment is apparent in their actions and passion with which they talk about their work. Seniors Centers are a priority within the department, and it is apparent that senior centers receive support and resources from being a part of a larger department.
  • The center staff provide a high level of customer service. The staff are very courteous, personable, responsive and attentive to members, even when staff is involved in other activities or tasks. The high level of customer service is to be commended as multi-tasking in a senior center is a challenge.
  • The focus groups held each month at the senior centers is a good practice as it allows for members to have access to managers as well as have a organized formal time for staff to gather feedback from members.
  • The center has a very dedicated committed advisory council. They help in fundraising as well as program planning.

The Kinship Care Resource Center

The Kinship Care Resource Center (KCRC) is located in the City of Jonesboro, Clayton County, Georgia. Clayton county is located just south of Atlanta and has suburban areas and rural areas. There are several small towns clustered together and KCRC pulls members/clients from all of these areas.

The KCRC is unique in that it serves both children and senior adults. The mission of the KCRC is to enable grandparents/relative caregiver headed families to maintain stability, security and safety in the home, by offering services that assist caregivers meet their emotional, educational, financial, and recreational needs for themselves and the children they are raising. The program was created in 2003 to address the needs of this specialized population after the Federal administration championed the cause of meeting the needs of grandparent raising grandchildren. The KCRC program is a model program for Georgia and since opening in 2003 has served over 4,000 families.

Your Peer Reviewer observed many strengths of the Kinship Care Resource Center. 

These included:

  • The mission of the Kinship Care Center is considered a good practice. It is unique among senior centers, but meets a very important need, especially for this community. Many communities could benefit from well-developed programming for grandparents/relatives raising grandchildren.
  • The staff of the Kinship Care Center and the Senior Services Department are very knowledgeable, experienced and highly committed to the people they serve. Their commitment is apparent in their actions and passion with which they talk about their work. Seniors Centers are a priority within the department and it is apparent that senior centers receive support and resources from being a part of a larger department.
  • The center staff provide a high level of customer service. The staff are very courteous, personable, responsive and attentive to members, even when staff is involved in other activities or tasks. The high level of customer service is to be commended as multi-tasking in a senior center is a challenge.
  • Fishing sessions, a cooking group and spa days.

Newark Senior Center

The Newark Senior Center (NSC) has been in operation since 1967 and moved to its current location on White Chapel Drive in 1996. The center is located within the Newark Delaware city limits, a community of 31,500 people, but serves  the much larger region of New Castle County with a population of more than 500,000 (which is one-half of the entire population of the state of Delaware.)  Newark is the home of University of Delaware, and New Castle County hosts wide array of community agencies, including several that serve older adults.

NSC serves approximately 4000 members age 50 plus, a number that has been relative stable for several years.  On a typical day, approximately 250 members visit NSC and there are 55,000 to 65,000 visits per year. This is the center’s third re-accreditation. 

Membership fees are $35 per year, with subsidies available if needed. NSC is a 501©3 agency. It is open M-Th 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. plus two Saturdays per month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It has a total of 15 full time staff of whom 4 are in food service and 3 are in programs, 20 part time staff, and an estimated 500 volunteers, including 158 Meals on Wheels deliverers and 225 supporting special events. Notably, there have been only four Executive Directors in its 52 year history.

There are a wide range of programs such as non-Title III lunchtime meals, transportation to and from the center and for recreational excursions, home-delivered meals, caregiver education, volunteer opportunities, and health and wellness, arts and humanities, educational, recreational, I/R, intergenerational, and advocacy programs and services, as well as a newer program serving participants with early onset dementia. 

The center also partners with more than 20 community agency representing health, educational, advocacy, civic, charitable and social, and for-profit sectors. The facility of approximately 25,000 SF has undergone one significant expansion and three major renovations.

The peer reviewer noted that the accreditation process engaged more than 60 individuals who met a total of five times (altogether or in subcommittees) between September and December. Participants represented Board members, staff, center volunteers, and community volunteers and leaders from educational, health, social service, governmental, and business sectors. Notably, the self-assessment process also involved 25 master’s in public administration students. 

The Peer Reviewer observed many strengths of the Newark Senior Center.  These included:

  • A strong, dedicated staff who obviously work well together as a team, and to whom the Executive Director is very comfortable delegating significant responsibilities.
  • A strong corps of volunteers, including exceptional volunteer leaders in the Gift Shoppe, computer lab, and as virtual architectural and interior design in house consultants.
  • An almost dizzying array of programs, with a significant number of them scheduled in the evening.
  • Strong leadership from the Executive Director and the Board of Directors, who clearly recognized and accepted their fund development responsibilities.
  • Comprehensive marketing efforts built upon a monthly 48 pageattractive and informative newsletter.
  • An exceedingly strong financial base, that enabled significant facility expansion and multiple renovations, while maintaining more than adequate reserves.
  • A model, comprehensive Development and Planned Giving operation.
  • A model, comprehensive Recovery and Business Continuity plan.
  • An attractive, exceptionally well-maintained facility.
  • A very large and beneficial number of internships and practicums.
  • A strong, healthy array of funding sources that allowed the membership fee to remain low, and subsidized important programs like Meals on Wheels and Transportation.

Vesper Hall 50-Plus Community Center

The Vesper Hall 50-Plus Community Center is run by the city of Blue Springs. The City of Blue Springs is a suburb of the Kansas City metro area. Blue springs has a population of 53,573 and approximately 24% is over 50 and individuals 65 and older represent 11% of the population. The Vesper Hall center opened in 1993 and has grown through the years. Today, they serve over 5,000 seniors, 22,633 congregate meals, and 13,396 home delivered meals with an average of 93 participants per day. They cook meals on site for the daily meal program as well as home-delivered meals to homebound seniors in the area.

The center is a senior community center open five days a week, including three evenings and occasional Saturday and Sunday for special events. The Center is also a resource for the Blue Springs Parks & Recreation Department for all ages as needed for other recreation programs. The facility is located next to a small park and is rented out to the public when not in use.

The center’s funding source comes from grant money, rentals, user fees and the City’s general fund. They have four full time employees and nine part-time employees. They offer a variety of educational, recreational, art related, health related and volunteer opportunities for seniors in the community. They also have a large base of community support for sponsorships.

The Peer Reviewer observed many strengths of the Vesper Hall 50-Plus Community Center. 

These included:

  • Friendly participants who mentioned more than once how welcoming everyone was at the facility.
  • Dedicated staff who help promote the welcoming atmosphere.
  • Building was clean, well maintained, and had a variety of room sizes for different programming.
  • The center offers a free community meal each year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The staff said they have to offer the meals at two different times to serve the large numbers who attend.
  • Senior participants present their views at the Recreation Department Employee luncheon to explain the Center and offer stories on what it meant to them to attend.
  • The center is open three evenings a week and some weekends for special events.
  • Planning document with performance measures listed clearly.
  • Strong community connections.
  • Strong marketing plan with objectives and action steps.
  • City provides great support and the financial backing to run the Center.
  • Volunteer handbook with comprehensive information.
  • Large volunteer presence in teaching classes and running special events.
  • Good variety of programs offered at different times during the day and week.
  • Excellent operations manual with detailed information on how the Center is run.

Consider national accreditation and the self-assessment process to highlight all the positive aspects of your senior center while involving community experts and even nearby university students in the process. Learn how the National Senior Center Standards and self-assessment process can help you achieve excellence at your center.