Source: The Corydon Democrat

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Senior meals to halt at Frenchtown

by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor

September 24, 2013

August Smith has seen the senior meals provided by LifeSpan Resources from both sides. He used to deliver the meals to shut-ins; now, the 90-year-old is on the receiving end, partaking of the weekday lunches at the Frenchtown Community Center.

Come October, Smith and dozens like him don't know where they will gather to share a noon meal and socialize. That's because Spencer Township Trustee Donald Satterfield notified LifeSpan that he is terminating a rental contract agreement he has had with the agency.

The contract was signed Dec. 29, 2009, and states that the agreement will "remain in effect on a continuous basis" until either party desires to terminate it and gives written notice 30 days in advance.

The letter from Satterfield is dated Aug. 28; however, it is postmarked Sept. 14. LifeSpan officials received it Sept. 16.

Satterfield said in the letter that "Spencer Township can no longer continue to provide utilities, including gas, electricity, water and telephone at no cost to LifeSpan as these expenses far exceed the donation of $100 per month paid by LifeSpan." It further states that the contract agreement will terminate effective Oct. 1.

Sandy Dubois, who is the LifeSpan coordinator for the Frenchtown site, said this is the only site that LifeSpan pays to use. The number of users varies from 20 to 30 a day but increases to 60 diners on bingo days.

The approximate 6,120-square-foot building, located across S.R. 337 from St. Bernard Catholic Church, also serves as station No. 3 for the Ramsey Volunteer Fire Dept., which houses five vehicles in about half of the building. There also is a maintenance area, with a refrigerator, ice maker and washer and dryer for the fire department, a small dispatch center and rest room, in addition to the multi-purpose room, complete with a small kitchen, available for rent to the community. The community center also is used a polling place.

The $515,000 community center/firehouse was built in 2005 with a Indiana Dept. of Commerce Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $256,000. Because township trustees can't submit applications for block grants, the Harrison County Board of Commissioners made the request. The balance of the needed funds came from riverboat money.

Dubois was told the electric bill for the community center is $600 a month. Some, like Murl Simon, questions that since Harrison REMC only has one meter for the building. Simon said the five Ramsey fire vehicles are constantly being charged when not in use, with one also charging an air compressor. Dubois said there has been considerable maintenance work done recently that included the air conditioner, stove and ice maker.

"We realize expenses have gone up," said Jerry Babcock, adding that the seniors who use the Frenchtown site were willing to increase what they pay for meals from $2 to $3 a day, with the additional money going to help with the building's expenses, at least until some other arrangement could be worked out.

Barbara Kepley of Depauw, along with her husband, John, have been using LifeSpan's services in Frenchtown for about three or four years.

"We fell in love with Sandy," Barbara said. "She makes it so fun."

About losing the site, she said, "It's not right. It's a community center. Some (seniors) are not going to get a square meal" if the site is closed.

Dubois said meals aren't all the participants get Monday through Friday. She schedules programs about disabilities and identity theft and services such as blood-pressure checks. Those who gather there also enjoy one another's company and can play cards, bingo or other games.

Leota Rennirt said she and her husband, Fred, attend church, go to doctor appointments and meet friends at the community center. "We don't go anywhere else," she said.

Satterfield is the one who told the Rennirts and others about the senior meals when the site first opened.

"Donnie fought tooth and nail to get this (building)," Larry Colin said. "I just don't understand" his decision.

LifeSpan has been providing hot, nutritious meals to Harrison County residents since the organization's inception. The first meal site was at the Corydon United Methodist Church before it was relocated to the Joe Rhoads Senior Citizen Center. The second site, added in the early 1980s, was in the Frenchtown area but was moved to the New Salisbury area in 1992.

"I'm just hoping something can be done," Barbara said.