October is filling up with free services at the Austintown Senior Center. Numerous programs will be taking place thanks to the partnership between the center and the Mahoning County Sheriff's Senior Services office that has been located there.
"We are going to be very busy this month," said Senior Services Office Director Kay Lavelle.
The earliest event involves annual flu shots for seniors. Through a partnership with Marc's, free shots will be offered from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 3 and 10. All a senior needs to do is bring their Medicare card and a photo I.D.
"It's at no out-of-pocket (no co-pay) expense," Lavelle said. "Marc's will bill Medicare and the senior doesn't have to do anything except bring ID and themselves and get the shot."
From 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 7, any resident can attend a grief recovery program set up through a partnership with Crossroads Hospice Charitable Foundation. Lavelle said the program is free for anyone going through grief. She said there are 43 different types of losses in life ranging from the death of a loved one to a major financial change. All the losses are cause for grieving.
While the 12-week session is free to residents, those planning to attend are asked to register ahead of time by contacting bereavement coordinator Jamie Schall at 330-776-3305 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The program was developed by the Grief Recovery Institute, and creates a safe environment to learn how losses affect people, and how to move past the grief and pain through new actions. A trained and certified moderator leads each session.
Lavelle said the grief program is open to all ages.
"Grief strikes you no matter what age you are," she said. "A lot of people are caregivers and for those caring for a person with Alzhiemer's, they can experience grief from a loved one no longer recognizing them. You may have lived with them for 40 years and now they don't know who you are."
Moving on to Friday, Oct. 18, the center will turn into a driving school for seniors. The American Association of Retired People will present a driving course that is co-sponsored by the center and the Mahoning County Senior Services Unit. A fee of $14 for non-AARP members and $12 for members will be charged. The course will feature senior defensive driving and driving strategies and run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Wrapping up the busy month will be a special craft fair from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26 with proceeds helping to feed seniors in November.
"The day before Thanksgiving, we package 300 meals for seniors who have no support system," Lavelle said. "Most are isolated."
She said it is an annual event called Thanksgiving for Seniors and is sponsored by the Mahoning County Sheriff's Senior Service Unit. Each year, the unit puts together the meals from generous donations and the proceeds of the craft show.
"Sam's Club has already donated 30 twenty-pound turkeys and Highway Tabernacle has volunteered to roast them for us," Lavelle said.
Along with the turkey, a volunteer staff will put together potatoes, all the trimmings and pumpkin pie. Once the complete dinner is ready to ship out, volunteers begin loading their cars and head out to make the deliveries.
"We encourage them to bring their children so it instills volunteerism as a young age," Lavelle said.
She added that the seniors often enjoy seeing the children coming to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving.
While all these programs are keeping Lavelle and the Senior Center staff hopping, she hopes to add one more program called Home Safe. This program can help locate and return a person with disabilities who wonders off.
Lavelle said the program begins with an event where parents and family members who have a person with disabilities can go and sign up. They fill out a registration card with important information about the person and have a photo taken. That information is entered into a database that only police can access. If the person were to wonder off, police can be notified to keep an eye open and will instantly have the person's photo on their squad car monitor. The information also comes up and can alert officers if the person, for example, is autistic and can't speak well.
"This program is for autistic kids or elderly who may walk or run away," Lavelle said. "This puts their picture in every police vehicle in the county."
While the program is up and running in Mahoning County, Lavelle said she is hoping to set up a day to come to the Senior Center to sign up. Like most of the programs she is involved in, this is also a free service and is sponsored by Sheriff Jerry Greene.