By Alisha Thompson
There’s a new person steering the ship at the Davis Senior Citizens Center and her name is Stacey (Drake) Harness. The captain’s hat has been passed down by longtime director, Pete Byrd. Both have high hopes for the future of the Senior Center.
Byrd said that 31 years ago, Aunda Ozburn and five other “little white haired ladies” asked for help to get a program started. “They brought sack lunches and met at the housing projects next to the football field. In 1995, they moved into the old Post Office (old Senior Center on Fourth Street.) From six sack lunches to 19,000 meals in the last year,” Byrd said. “We are an independent site with no federal monies. We write grants through SODA receiving funds with 100% spent on food.”
Harness, a Davis native, comes on board as the city’s Community Services Director.
As a military wife, she’s spent years in civil service, all across the world. Her heart’s desire is to give of herself and her time. For Harness, that means volunteering. She was given unique opportunities to work in areas that benefited the military community as a whole. This makes Harness equipped to run the Senior Center and the new thrift store. Yes, a new thrift store is set to open in the next three months.
When Byrd looks ahead thinking about the Senior Center, he’s optimistic. “I am excited for the future and purpose of this place,” he said. “This place has so much potential to help older people have a relationship and a life outside of their recliner. It is important for your mental stability and overall health.”
COVID-19 has changed so many things, chief among them, the Senior Center’s daily operating procedures and the loss of a gathering place for the elderly community in Davis. “I have been to so many funerals lately. People are not getting the recognition and acceptance they deserve,” Byrd said. Harness chimed in calling this a generation of “strange endings.”
When the Senior Center reopens Harness is planning a community picnic on the lawn of the Senior Center. When is the question, though.
“When, we don’t know, but we will bring our seniors together and celebrate,” Harness said. “We are looking forward to the future. We will have the building open for social time. Bingo, dominoes, painting nights. We are looking to make this a true senior center.”
Looking to the future, Harness knows that additional help will be needed.
Because of COVID-19, volunteers can not come in the building to help. Right now, the center is looking for volunteers to help with food, deliver food to people picking up their food and deliver food to those that are home bound. Meals are served and delivered on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
When they open, they will need an average of 12 people to help make in person dining at the Senior Center run smoothly. “Wait staff” is important and needed to deliver trays to those already seated, clear their trays and other tasks needed to help lunch run smoothly. Mobility issues are a concern and Harness would like to see the seniors be able to enjoy their meals and visit. Delivery drivers will be needed when in person dining resumes, too.
Donations of food or meal service products are welcome. “Anyone with a side of beef or extra green beans are welcome to donate those items,” Harness said. “Our funding comes from SODA and their money has decreased through the pandemic. We have a set budget and we have to make it stretch.”
Financial donations are welcome and appreciated.
A new venture opportunity to help your neighbors will come with the opening of the new thrift shop, a non-profit falling under the umbrella of the City of Davis.
The thrift shop will be located at the old senior center at Fourth and Main with an expected opening date of 3 – 6 months from now.
Volunteers will be needed to process donations, make sure they are in good/clean shape and price the items. Volunteers will be given credit for working at the thrift shop to purchase items from the thrift shop.
“We are looking for opportunities in the community to help our neighbors,” Harness said. “We want everyone to come and shop. We want this thrift shop to be a shopping experience. If someone has ideas within the community, we’d love to hear them.”
Donations of hangers (please, no wire hangers) and clothing racks are being accepted prior to the opening of the thrift store.
Harness wants the public to know, the thrift shop will be opened varied hours throughout the week to accommodate shopping hours for those that are working or have engagements during the day.
Harness will update the community on the progress of the thrift store in future editions of The Davis News.
A Blessings Box is located outside of the Senior Center and is available for those in need.
Harness invites the community to bring non-perishable food items and toiletries (including feminine hygiene products) to donate to the Blessings Box.
In the future, she hopes to have a bigger box, protected from the elements by an awning for those in need.
Both Byrd and Harness know the importance of volunteerism.
“You’ll never get enough if you live to get,” Byrd said. “People just don’t understand the value of giving their time.”
Entering his second retirement from the Senior Center, Byrd leaves with a heart over-flowing with gratitude and memories from his time with Davis’s most valued residents, the senior community.
“There is first a vision, then a commitment, then cooperation and then results,” Byrd said. “The food is vitally important, but the interaction between people is equally important, for mental health and for having a satisfying and rewarding life. To all the volunteers, those who serve, clean tables, pick up trays, clean pots and pans and whatever is needed or asked of them, thank you. My physical life will go but the feelings, the emotions, the love for you will be in my heart forever. Thanks to all for 31 years of my life well spent.”
With the Senior Center and the new thrift shop opening soon, many will have opportunities to give back to their neighbors. Call Harness Monday, Wednesday or Friday at (580) 369-2452 to volunteer or donate for the Senior Center, the thrift store or the Blessings Box.
By Alisha Thompson