Booneville senior center remains closed

Alex Gladden
Paris Express
Mayor Jerry Wilkins passed a resolution at the Jan. 25 city council meeting in support of the city applying for a grant to buy a walk-in freezer.

Booneville officials will decide whether to re-open the senior center Feb. 18. 

The center has remained closed for nearly a year because of the pandemic. Mayor Jerry Wilkins said he doesn't think the center will open in the next 30 to 60 days. 

But the center has continued to allow seniors to pick up meals. Senior center workers also deliver meals to elderly people who are homebound, Wilkins said. 

Wilkins said the center gives out about 80 meals a day, which is approximately the same as how many meals the center gave out while the dining room was open.

“The food is really good," Wilkins said. 

People pay for the meals on a voluntary basis. 

“And some seniors don’t have the money," Wilkins said. 

For some seniors, this is how they eat. Wilkins said some of them are making decisions like whether to pay for food or heat or medicine. 

“We shouldn’t have to do that in America, but we do now," Wilkins said. 

The center is a place where senior citizens socialize. They can play games, use the computers and the exercise equipment. 

Some seniors only go to socialize and see other people, Wilkins said. 

"It’s more than just a place to get food," Wilkins said. 

The city is applying for a grant of about $25,000  to get a new walk-in freezer to store more food at the center, Wilkins said. 

The Western Arkansas Planning and Development District is applying for the senior center grant. 

The center already has a walk-in freezer but it's too small to hold all the food that is donated, Wilkins said. 

In the past, the center has had to turn down food donations because there was not enough space.

“We just don’t have the capacity to store it," Wilkins said. 

At the Jan. 25 city council meeting, the members passed a resolution in support of the center applying for the grant. 

The center receives most of its donations from the food bank in Fort Smith but also receives donations from area churches. 

While the center has been closed, Wilkins has been using the opportunity to remodel much of the space. So far, workers have painted the entire inside of the center. They have also made upgrades to the kitchen, including replacing the dishwasher. 

In the time the center remains closed, Wilkins would like to redo the kitchen and recreation room floors.

“Because once you open that thing up, there’s somebody there all the time, and you just have to work around them," Wilkins said.