Teachers and students in a Friday exercise class at Oakdale’s Gladys Lemmons Senior Center had not yet received word that funding for the program will end in June.
The Young at Heart classes for seniors in Oakdale, Ceres and other outlying cities of Stanislaus County are more than fun and games.
The exercises improve flexibility, strength and balance, making the seniors less likely to fall at home and suffer serious injuries, teachers said. The workouts help relieve the effects of arthritis, diabetes and depression and help stroke victims recover, they added.
Gwen Tirrell, a 79-year-old assistant teacher in Oakdale, said the routines helped her overcome headaches, neck pain, hip pain and backaches, and restored motion in a shoulder.
“It stinks,” Tirrell said when she was told the county concurred with a committee’s recommendation to deny a $20,000 grant that has supported the program.
County supervisors gave approval last week to shift more federally funded community development grants to youth programs, causing seniors to lose out on funding.
Some of the Young at Heart classes in Ceres, Turlock, Oakdale, Patterson, Newman, Grayson and Waterford will be cut in July unless another source of money is identified, said Dianna Olsen, executive director of the Healthy Aging Association, which runs the classes.
No one has decided which classes will be cut. The Young at Heart groups in Modesto are not affected.
“We are just getting over being stunned,” Olsen said. “Not all of the classes will end. We will try to keep some. What I would like to do is find other funding.”
Last year, more than 1,450 seniors participated in the exercise classes, and 35 percent of them were in outlying communities, Olsen said.
The $20,000 grant paid for teachers, loops and straps and other gear for working the muscles and ligaments. Olsen is searching for other grant opportunities.
Kathy Sniffen, a member of the county Commission on Aging, challenged how $220,000 in public service funds were allocated to groups that applied for the competitive grants. None of those grants were awarded to senior groups, she noted.
Seven of the nine grants went to programs for children or youths; one was awarded to a food program and the other for services for homeless men. Sniffen said a community action plan gave top priority for the funding to children and youths. But seniors held the second priority, followed by the physically and mentally disabled. The latter group was not awarded any funding either, Sniffen said.
“There is a real discrepancy between how the funding was allocated and how community members ranked these priorities,” she said.
The recommendations for public service grants were made by a panel of representatives from the county, Ceres, Hughson, Oakdale, Patterson, Waterford, other local agencies and the county chief executive’s office.
In one change this year, $40,000 was set aside for a Focus on Prevention effort to benefit young people. Focus on Prevention is a county initiative to address the root causes of homelessness, gangs, crime and other social ills.
The $40,000 grant was approved for Central Valley Youth for Christ’s Point Break program to provide counseling for 160 youths and families identified through workshops at schools in the Ceres Unified School District. Counselors will strive to improve family relationships, reduce high-risk behavior and make sure the young people stay in school, the grant request says.
Point Break also has been implemented in Oakdale and Newman schools. Even though the broader Focus on Prevention campaign has not taken off, the grant is part of a county board directive to work on prevention, said Ruben Imperial of the chief executive’s office.
The Young at Heart classes tied for 10th in the scoring for public service grants and were not funded for the first time in 13 years.
Sandra Cordano, who attended Friday’s class in Oakdale with 30 other seniors, said her health depends on the exercise class. “What we are doing keeps me flexible and keeps my balance,” she said. “When you miss a class or two, you feel it.”
County supervisors said last week they need to shift the limited pot of community development grant money to other purposes. They want to concentrate more on prevention after spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year treating the symptoms of social decay.
“This is not easy, especially when we are changing things around,” board Chairman Terry Withrow said.
Ken Carlson: (209) 578-2321
AT A GLANCE
Public Service Grant awards for 2015-16 fiscal year in Stanislaus County
1. Salvation Army After School Program: $19,812
2. Second Harvest Food Assistance: $20,000
3. CASA of Stanislaus County: $20,000
4. Westside Family Resource Center: $20,000
5. Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children: $20,000
6. Oakdale Family Resource Center: $20,000
7. Second Harvest Food 4 Thought: $20,000
8. We Care Program shelter: $20,000
9. Children’s Crisis Center: $20,000
10. Young at Heart Program: zero
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