Kent County senior center holds virtual events

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Social distancing guidelines have forced nonprofit organizations to cancel major fundraisers this year and find new ways to bring in donations.

Senior Neighbors, based in Grand Rapids, is hosting a week-long series of virtual events with the goal of raising $10,000 in place of the group’s annual luncheon, which for the last several years has been at Frederik Meijer Gardens.

Senior Neighbor’s receives funding through Kent County’s senior millage and state and federal funding, but about 15% of the budget for the year is raised from the community.

Senior Neighbors serves more than 4,000 older adults ever year, through various programs and five Senior Centers in Kent County. Organizers aim to help their clients stay independent, especially those with physical, social, or economic needs.

In order to follow Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order, the organization had to close its central office and all five senior centers, but employees are still serving clients.

“We have groups doing conference call bingo. We have some of our health and wellness classes hosted online, tai chi classes that were doing through zoom. There is a book club as well where everyone reads on their own at home and then meets online once a week. It’s really just an opportunity to connect with other people,” said Brian Clark, the director of development and donor care for Senior Neighbors.

He explained that every day this week the organization will release a new video on its website. The videos will feature different services the centers offer and introduce the leaders behind the programs.  

The first videos focus on the senior centers and the leadership at the organization.

Workers and volunteers have also been packing up meals to take to clients who rely on them for lunches. Clark said, no matter what, they are going to keep finding ways to serve seniors in the county and adjust to what that looks like as needed.

“Seniors are that vulnerable population that needs protections in place. We’ll see how that plays out, it might look like limited capacity in our senior centers or lunches provided in waves and fewer people at a time, we’ll have to see,” Clark said.