STAFFORD TOWNSHIP – With large ceremonial scissors in hand, Ocean County officials and senior advocates got to work cutting the red ribbon marking the official opening of the newly renovated Ocean County Southern Service Center Senior Nutrition Site and Home Delivered Meals Production Kitchen during a May 14 ceremony.
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“This is a great day for our seniors and for our outreach efforts,” said Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, who is Chairman of the Office of Senior Services. “We are so proud of this program. Much more than a meal, this site houses a lifeline to many of our seniors who are frail and homebound.
“It helps them maintain their independence and their integrity,” Vicari said. “And those are key elements for a good quality of life.”
The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders awarded a contract to Ranco Construction, Inc., of Southampton for $950,500 to renovate the building, which once housed a gymnasium. The center is located at 179 South Main Street at Routes 72 and 9 in Manahawkin.
The work included reconfiguring the inside of the building to provide 2,000 square feet of additional service area for the county’s senior nutrition program allowing for expanded meal preparation.
“Our senior nutrition program provides more than 1,100 meals daily for our senior population,” Vicari said. “We do not have a waiting list and our provider delivers meals every day. Being the second largest County in the state land wise, this is a big job and not only does it get done every day, but it gets done well.”
Vicari noted that with the meal, the staff at Community Services along with their dedicated drivers help provide a daily wellness check for many seniors that can no longer get around on their own.
“Nutrition support is a key ingredient to good health for older adults,” he said.
Seniors in the county’s congregate nutrition program from Lacey Township south to Little Egg Harbor use the nutrition site at the Southern Service Center. The renovated nutrition site can hold over 200 people.
“The leadership of Freeholder Vicari are second to none,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Virginia E. Haines. “The socialization, recreation, educational programs and health screenings that are offered at this nutrition site and others around the County provide many benefits for our seniors and help to keep them active.”
“We offer programs for the newly arrived senior to those residents approaching 100,” she said. “Each segment of our senior population can tap into programs that address their specific needs.”
The newly renovated kitchen now provides the home delivered meals for the entire county consolidating with the kitchen at the Ocean County Northern Resource Center in Lakewood.
“While construction was under way, I am happy to say there was no interruption in the service for either the nutrition site component or home delivered meals,” Vicari said. “Community Services Inc., under the direction of Jim Sigurdson, didn’t miss a beat with getting meals out to our seniors and providing meals here.
“We have learned that our programs provide great benefits for our seniors, especially those who are frail and in need,” Vicari said. “It is less expensive to provide food for one-year for a senior then it is to cover the cost of a day in an emergency room.”
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According to the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, every day, 10,000 baby boomers turn age 65, or nearly 10 million over the next three years. By 2030, 73 million – or one in five – people in America will be age 65 or older. By 2035, all communities must be prepared to address these realities when, for the first time in our nation’s history, the population of adults age 60 and older will outnumber people younger than 20.
The project also included creating storage facilities, expanding administrative space for client services, and more refrigeration. It also included lowering the ceiling of the facility and the installation of sprinklers – a major safety upgrade.
Also, when needed, this expanded facility will act as an emergency operations center. The building will be powered by two generators during power outages.
The County originally opened the Ocean County Southern Service Center in 2011 to provide residents of the southern portion of the county with the opportunity to access some local senior services programs including Long Beach Island Senior Services Outreach and the services of the Ocean County Clerk.
“With its convenient location, we quickly included the Ocean County Surrogate, Veterans Services and other senior assistance programs,” Vicari said. “This facility plays an integral role in the delivery of our services and programs to residents in the southern area of the County and now across the County.”