The LOEL Center has proposed taking over some of the senior programs at Hutchins Street Square, including help with taxes, legal issues and health insurance.
The idea was discussed enthusiastically by members of the Lodi City Council during an early morning study session.
The LOEL Center and senior programs at Hutchins Street Square are independently operated, which Jeff Hood, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, said is unusual for a city of 60,500.
The LOEL Center was opened in the 1970s. It offers a hot lunch on weekdays to as many seniors as can be served that day in their main hall, and runs dancing lessons, Bingo, arts and crafts, and movie nights.
The senior center at Hutchins Street Square runs some fun and games hours, too, but focuses on special services for older residents. These include support groups, Brain Builders classes, legal services, tax help and health insurance counseling.
“Increasing efficiency is not just about finances. Today is about providing more services to seniors,” Hood said.
Speakers representing both centers proposed that the LOEL Center could take over management of the senior center at Hutchins, as well as coordinate services with Lodi Health, which runs the senior daycare center, also at the Square.
Jennifer Winn, coordinator for the senior center, said she often refers seniors to the LOEL Center for programs they offer, and sees many people referred to Hutchins by staff at LOEL.
If the two centers combine, they’ll create one resource for all senior needs, said Tracy Williams, director of the LOEL Center.
The idea is to have one group operating both centers, said Officer Ryan Holz of the Lodi Police Department, who also serves on the LOEL Center board. Both locations would remain in use.
“It’s about avoiding duplication, expanding what we want to expand and finding more space to offer programs at our center,” he said.
For example, Williams said she has to cap off the lunches on Tuesdays and Fridays because half of the main hall is taken up by Bingo or line dancing lessons. Move those activities to a space at the Square, she said, and more seniors can come to LOEL for lunch.
Mark Sey, chief administrative officer for Lodi Health, said the hospital could bring in a health component to the swimming classes as surgery recovery and rehabilitation.
The switch could happen as soon as July, said Hood. Both centers are working together on a memorandum of understanding with the city, and working out a new budget for the grand vision.
Councilman Larry Hansen asked how funding would shift to cover the changes.
“There are some things LOEL has to charge for. That doesn’t change whether it happens at LOEL or the Square,” said Hansen.
The LOEL Center’s budget would cover the satellite center at Hutchins and assume the costs of any expansion. The city of Lodi would continue some support for utilities at Hutchins. The LOEL Center would add a few part-time employees to help with extra duties.
When the proposal comes back to the city council, both Hansen and Councilman Bob Johnson requested a printout of budgets, personnel charts and a list of programs to better their understanding of the changes.
“I totally support more programs for seniors,” Hansen said. “It’s probably overdue and a good thing to proceed with.”
Johnson liked the idea, but wanted more information.
“It’s a good vision, but there’s chinks in the grout as far as I’m concerned,” said Johnson.
Williams has put together a budget and reviewed it with Hood, and she’s confident it can work. She especially wants more room and funding to get the Meals on Wheels program back in Lodi.
“It’s going to take years to build on to the LOEL Center itself. This gets me more square footage at a reasonable cost,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to remove the stigma of being an Eastside, west side thing. We’ll be known as one center serving the seniors of Lodi. Anything we can do to help promote the centers as one will help greatly (with grants).”
Council members JoAnne Mounce and Alan Nakanishi were absent. No final decision was made, but both centers are moving forward with their plans.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at email@example.com.