Managers, Directors and Center
Senior Center Best Practices
Marketing Your Center, Volunteer Projects, Intergenerational, Money Making Idea,
Senior Center/Nutrition Program/Organization Name
Encore Experiences at Harleysville
312 Alumni Avenue, Harleysville, PA 19438
Instead of the traditional senior center congregate meal program where
participants are seated at one time and served the meal that is offered that
day, the “senior” of today wants and needs to be treated with a higher level of
respect. The Boomerang Project states: “According to the 2000 report by
Northwestern University’s Buehler Center on Aging done for the Suburban Cook
County Area Agency on Aging,
Most Congregate Nutrition Programs operate out of senior
centers, and many younger older adults don’t see themselves as “senior enough”
to attend. The name alone is often enough to make them decide “that’s not for
me!” An image can be conveyed solely by a name. “Congregate Meal Program,”
“Elderly Nutrition Program,” “Senior Lunch Program,” “Senior Friendship Center”
and other commonly used names may connote too institutional an image and can
cause potential participants to self-select themselves out of the program. Many
programs are interested in linking their meals and other services with good
health but have difficulty deciding exactly what to call the program to
highlight that connection.”
To this end we changed the name of our organization from
Harleysville Senior Center to Encore Experiences at Harleysville in September of
2009. This has not been in name alone, at the same time we reinvented our meal
program and opened The Encore Café.
The Encore Café has transformed our traditional congregate meal
program from someplace that old people go for a free meal in a dingy setting to
one where the community can come and socialize in an atmosphere of dignity.
As one participant said “I don’t feel like I am coming here to
get a meal, I feel like I am out to eat”.
The meal program is one of most valuable tools we have for
encouraging people to come and they are assured of at least one hot nutritious
meal daily. Once they are here they can learn of other services provided they
may be eligible for. Many people who are eligible for congregate meal programs
do not take advantage of them because they feel it is an admission of defeat.
This project will remove these stigmas/barriers.
Recommendations from the 2008 PA Department of Aging Nutrition
1. Developing a menu that includes healthier, more
natural, meal choices.
2. Exploring private pay options.
3. Extended seating hours.
The Encore Café incorporates all the above recommendations and
more. We are open from 11:30 - 1:00 for lunch leating; we offer the "special of
the day" and soup, salad and sandwich options at menu prices; we have volunteer
waitstaff service; and we welcome the greater community, which makes the program
intergenerational. We also offer breakfast options every day. We are currently
exploring the potential of being open 1 evening a week. Based on the new rules
from the PA Dept of Long Term Living, we are able to offer take-out. And we
have been the first in our area to introduce a frozen meals to go program.
The “Special of the Day” remains an anonymous, voluntary
requested contribution of $2.00 for those eligible (age 60 or older, disabled,
or the spouse of an eligible person). This is the same request we asked for the
previous traditional congregate meal program. This request is made on behalf of
Montgomery County Aging and Adult Services and all funds collected are sent to
MCAAS. For those ineligible menu options are available for reasonable fees.
Time and Manpower
In order to implement this program we increased our Meal Coordinator
position from part time (17 - 20 hours/week) to full time. We also added a part
time kitchen assistant and incorporated a volunteer waitstaff program.
Approximately 2 volunteers per day in addition to our staff are needed to keep
the program running smoothly and efficiently.
We have marketed the café in a local paper that is mailed free to peoples
homes, in both the actual body of the paper and as in insert. We have also
opened the café for other nonprofit and community meetings, (i.e. the United Way
uses our café for campaign cabinet meetings) this introduces our program to
leaders in the community. We have taken the lead role in creating a
collaborative radio project that will run throughout 2010 that was funded by
Montgomery County to promote nutrition programs.
Additional material in PDF format:
Courier Insert - Front |
Courier Insert - Back
Cafe Menu |
People aged 60 and over or disabled are eligible for the "special of the
day" at an anonymous requested donation. The entire community is welcome to
enjoy the café.
RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program) of Montgomery County has been
helpful in recruiting volunteer waitstaff. We partner with any business
interested in advertising on our place mats. We have aquired some funding
partners because of the innovative program at the café including additional
funding for capital improvements from Montgomery County Aging & Adult Services,
T D Bank Foundation, W.W. Smith Charitable Trusts and more. We are currently
exploring potential partnerships with food produces for donations/discounts for
Anticipated 2010 - 2011 budget
$76,670 Congregate Meal Program
$37,593 Additional Café Expenses
Total = $114,263
Impact On Center
The biggest social change of our program is the he "open to the public"
aspect. This incorporates an intergenerational aspect into our program - it is
not just of "old people" - it is open to everyone. Our community seating mixes
and matches whoever arrives so that many connections and conversations can take
place. It does not segregate older people away from the rest of the community,
it encourages interactions where people of all ages can respect and get to know
Our Congregate Meal "special of the day" program serves lunch approximately 60
people per day. According to our database, from January 1 – December 31, 2009,
468 people were served 9247 meals. According to our database, from January 1 –
December 31, 2008, 389 people were served 8,061 meals. This is a 20% increase in
the number of people we are helping and a 15% increase in the number of meals we
One of our members takes home a “special of the day” quite often. It is for a
woman that she is a caregiver for who is eligible to receive this meal for a
requested anonymous donation of $2.00. She really enjoys it. If she had to make
something for herself it would be a half a sandwich or a Lean Cuisine dinner.
Our “special of the day” was usually enough for two meals, but she eventually
began finishing it.
When the caregiver took the women for her regular doctor visit, they were
surprised that she had gained 7 pounds. They had wanted her to gain some weight
for quite a while. The doctor asked what she had been doing differently. She
told him she had been bringing her a meal home from the Encore Café.
This story is very interesting from 2 perspectives. 1. The health/nutrition
benefits of the meals offered and 2. The new rules allowing take-out have
created our own community run meals on wheels type program.
The board must be 100% behind the program and be willing to make the
investment needed to be successful for the long term.
Although I believe we market well, it is a continuous struggle and a continuous
Some of the changes we made were not initially liked by current participants in
theory, once we implemented them they love them - so don’t be afraid to do what
you know is right, just because others are comfortable with the way things are.
Make the investment to purchase the appropriate equipment, tables and chairs and
create a more professional environment and upscale atmosphere.
Coordinate volunteer needs and roles early.
Keep menu prices low.
Create innovative funding streams - aside from the income from the café, we also
sell advertising on our placemats.
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