Agency continues to work toward new Keyser Senior Center
By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Throughout the pandemic over the past year, Mineral County senior citizens found there was still one contact with “the real world” that they could count on - Meals on Wheels.
According to Louie Kitzmiller, director of finance for Aging & Family Services of Mineral County, COVID restrictions forced the agency to curtail its congregate meals at the senior center, “but Meals on Wheels never stopped.”
For those who weren’t on the regular Meals on Wheels program, the agency has been preparing weekly food boxes to help make up for the meals they were missing from the Senior Center. “It was like a five-meal box,” he said.
The Keyser Senior Center, currently located in the 125+ year-old former Lincoln School on Church Street, has long outgrown its space yet continued prior to the pandemic to serve the county’s seniors. Meals were prepared there and either served in the dining room or taken to two other nutrition sites in the county.
“Last year, the Keyser Senior Center along served over 31,000 meals to older adults, 60 and over, living in Keyser, Elk Garden and Piedmont,” Kitzmiller said.
Recently, AFS was presented with an opportunity to not only ensure those numbers would adequately be served, but that could also expand its services to reach many more.
The agency received what Kitzmiller calls “a lifetime chance” to purchase the former Pizza Hut on Route 220.
“Generous donations, including a bequest from Carl Saville, enabled AFS to secure the property,” according to a brochure Kitzmiller recently presented to the Mineral County Commissioners. “A new senior center with a larger kitchen will help us better provide for Mineral County seniors, increasing their emotional, social and physical well-being.”
Kitzmiller said the total estimated cost of the building renovation is approximately a half-million dollars, and work is planned to start later this year, with a projected opening in Winter 2021.
According to the brochure, the new center will include a 495-square-foot kitchen - almost doubling the size of the agency’s current kitchen. It will also have a larger dining area.
“A new senior center with a larger kitchen will help us better provide for Mineral County seniors, increasing their emotional, social, and physical well-being,” the brochure states. “AFS can serve a larger population, create better and safer access, improve current services, expand new services, and increase outreach to our senior citzens.”
Scott Mallory, executive director for AFS, told the News Tribune earlier this year that the new senior center would have the space to allow for expanded recreational opportunities, including such offerings as intergenerational classes in genealogy, computers, budgeting, and exercise.
AFS has launched a campaign to help raise the money to renovate the building, and through donations and grants has already raised $50,000, including a grant from the U.S. Windforce Foundation and the Gannett Foundation, which is sponsored by the News Tribune’s parent company.
They have also asked the Mineral County Commissioners to consider the senior center project for a one-time contribution of $50,000 as the elected officials prepare their budget for 2021-2022.
The commissioners will be preparing their budget in March.