By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven Select Board heard from several department heads at its meeting on 1/22/24.
Recreation Director, Kelley Ramirez told the board a new staff person started that day, which will allow the department to expand services and outreach.
The winter program has more than 900 participants, a “signficant” jump from last year of more than 100.
The Rec Center is currently enrolling for the summer “Kool Kids’ program, and they are adding new activities. She said they are hoping to get the kids outside at the local parks this year, where they will be able to offer lunch to the participants and to the community, using the federal lunch program.
The Rec Center averages about 120 people a day, said Ms. Ramirez. They are also renting out the facility for private parties, and are completely booked.
More and more people are becoming aware of the programs they offer, said Mr. Ramirez.
Select Board member Bob Espindola asked about revenue from program fees.
Ms. Ramirez said they generally generate about $200,000 in revenue, which is about half of what they need torun the department.
She said an after school program would boost revenue, and they are trying to restart it.
Council on Aging Director Martha Reed told the board that her department has been successful in getting grants for a variety of programs, including computer literacy for seniors.
Ms. Reed said the grant allowed them to buy touch screens and smart boards, which make it easier for seniors to learn how to use computers.
They also have equipment and software to livestream programs so people who are still hesitant to be in groups can join remotely.
Ms. Reed told the board that the social day program and lunch services are serving up to 80 people each day. They are helping up to 500 different people a month for services.
The department is also aware of other needs and concerns of older residents, such as food insecurity a housing issues.
At the senior center, staff can help people fill out forms for housing authorities other affordable housing complexes, and private listings that accept Section 8 vouchers.
The third major area of concern is transportation. The senior center/ COA takes 170 to 200 people each month to a variety of destinations in town, including medical appointments and shopping.
Fairhaven has an aging population that is giving up their licenses, she said. The center has also arranged to have a safe driving course by AARP that will be offered in April. Drivers who take the course could get up to 10% off their car insurance.
The center also partners with Everybody’s Hands to provide sign language for the hearing impaired.
Ms. Reed said the Social Day program is not yet back to five days a week, but they have applied for a grant to expand it. The program is half funded by fees and half funded b the town.
The center offers a variety of programs every day and some evenings, including a singles supper club and an LGBTQ supper club.
To learn more about the senior center and its programs, see page 9, call 508-979-4029; or visit the center at 229 Huttleston Avenue, Fairhaven (near Sop & Shop).
Veterans Services Officer Michael Jenney told the board that his department administers the program that helps veterans pay for rent, fuel, medicines, and other expenses. He said they are towards the end of recertification for people in the program, which they need to do twice a year.
He said it is a “lengthy process,” but they only had “one or two stragglers left.
His department also participated in Wreaths Across America, placing wreaths on or near the graves of veterans in Fairhaven cemeteries, with the help of volunteers. He said funds were a little short this year, but they are in good shape for next year and should be able to place wreaths on the grave of every veteran in Fairhaven this year.
The VSO is also getting ready for the Memorial Day parade, which requires permission fro the state to close Route 6 at the high school intersection.
Mr. Jenney said the parade committee has already been meeting. They want to “build the town spirit up,” he said.
They would like to see more people in the parade and more people watching along the route.
Mr. Jenney, who started in the position in November, said he has been getting out and about meeting people. Veterans are realizing he is there and available to help, he said, citing an “uptick” in people going into the office.
He said they are on the right track getting people the help they need and deserve.
One piece of big news, he said is the acquisition of a wheelchair van. He said he worked with the New Bedford Disabled American Veterans chapter. The Veterans Administration in Providence donated a van for the use of the town. It will be housed in New Bedford.’
He said they will have 15 volunteers to drive people to appointments.
“Which is a huge, huge win for the veterans,” said Mr. Jenney, adding that a lot of times disabled veterans cannot get to appointments because they need a special vehicle.
The VSO is also working with the police department, which got a grand for opioid addiction, to help veterans with substance abuse problems.
Mr. Jenney said veteran Bill Kligel was instrumental in getting the van. Mr. Jenney also credited former VSO Brad Fish with still being available for questions.
“I have backup,” said Mr. Jenney,
He noted that Jane Bettencourt has been in the office for years and knows the ropes.
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