by Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter, 3/1997
“Dismiss that notion of the ancient senior in a wheelchair with nothing to offer the world anymore. Foxboro’s seniors are a lively, important group, and they WILL be heard.”
Those words were mine; I wrote them in my very first full length column for this newspaper back in March of last year. The column’s subject was one I am very passionate about: Seniors, and them having a place to call their own here in Foxboro.
With the exception of a few words about some exceptional seniors last July, and praise for the spirit of generosity at the Senior Christmas fair last November, I haven’t spoken much about our seniors in this space recently. But with all the exciting developments these days, it seemed time to write about the seniors once more.
Back in that column a year ago, in response to proposed budget cuts, I made a plea that the Council on Aging budget not be cut. I called COA “a VERY essential service” and described our seniors as a lively and important percentage of this town’s population who are vital, and have much to offer.
Every Foxboro resident knows about COA and the many services it offers to the seniors, including Health services (such as blood pressure screening, flu shots, and diabetes checks), community service (such as meal delivery and rides in the Van-Go to church and the supermarket), and the many, many activities (including fairs, picnics, exercising, bingo, painting, videos, and lunches around town).
I’m not going to list every health service, community service and activity COA provides to the seniors. There are dozens and dozens of them. Turn to the Seniors section in this newspaper any week for a full description. The activities and offerings usually fill two full pages.
Despite being shuffled around every year from building to building, despite low funds, despite cramped quarters, despite the fact that most of the COA furniture is donated, COA still manages to excel at providing an excellent quality service to our seniors.
I sincerely consider COA director Lorraine Garland and Carol Haddad two of the best people I know. In addition to all the work they’ve done for the Discretionary Fund and other charitable organizations, they also make a huge difference to Foxboro’s nearly 3000 seniors. Sacrificing a great portion of their own free time, Lorraine and Carol take care of the seniors in countless ways, providing a myriad of services and activities. They are the senior’s lifeline.
I am absolutely thrilled that the long-awaited senior center is about to become reality. Obviously, there is much work to be done, but it’s nice to know that things are finally moving forward.
I was talking to Lorraine the other night about the senior center. She told me that for her, the act of actually standing on the Central Street site brought tears to her eyes.
“It sounds silly,” Lorraine explained, “but I was thinking of the line from Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.””
Lorraine, that isn’t silly. Once the senior center is built, our seniors will finally have the place they deserve. A place to call their own. A place that won’t be shuffled next year. A place with room to hold an exercise class or a bingo game or a craft fair or talk to a doctor privately or play cards with friends. A place to take advantage of all those dozens and dozens of health and community services or activities. A place to have dinner in the warm company of friends rather than dining alone.
The fund raisers for this effort will continue, but as with any project of this scope, people will have concerns. Will our taxes go up? I asked Lorraine about this, and she explained that the senior center will require a ten year loan, and after ten years it will be paid in full. “According to the town finance director Todd Hassett,” she explained, “the cost to taxpayers would be about five cents for every thousand dollars. A person owning a two hundred thousand dollar home in Foxboro would pay an extra ten dollars a year for ten years.”
Imagine that. Ten dollars. The cost of a McDonald’s dinner for two. A large Pizza with extra toppings. A bottle of wine. Half a tank of gas. A little more than the price of one movie ticket. How in the world could anyone begrudge such a small amount? We’ll never miss it, and it’ll help build the future.
I’m also not concerned that the Central Street site might not be safe for the seniors. Central is a busy street, but seniors don’t avoid Friendlies, Honeydew, Foxboro Savings bank, the video store or any of the other businesses there because Central is busy. Foxboro’s seniors aren’t senile and they aren’t confused children. They’ve long since learned to look both ways before crossing the street. and if they end up needing a traffic light there, then let’s put one there. They are worth it.
This project to give our seniors a home has been many, many years in the making, and is the result of the hard work of many people, but especially Lorraine and Carol. The tremendous amount of sacrifice and work you’ve put into this endeavor is very appreciated, and will make a great difference for seniors for many years to come.
Let’s support this worthy effort any way we can. Our future depends on it.