Considering how spread out are the facilities of Homer Senior Citizens Inc., when you talk about something being in our backyard, that means many backyards. The main campus between Herndon Drive and Svedlund Street includes independent living apartments, assisted living apartments, the main center and cafeteria. Further afield are two more apartment complexes off Bartlett Street, Bartlett Terrace and Swatzell Terrace.
Homer has had a Homer Senior Citizens group dating back to at least 1969, when it shared space in the basement of the Pratt Museum. In those days seniors gathered for activities such as arts and crafts, cards, billiards, shuffleboard and playing music on a piano, said longtime Homer resident Margaret Anderson.
The “Inc.” in its name has a more recent heritage: on Nov. 19, 1973, the nonprofit group became incorporated. That’s the anniversary Homer Senior Citizens Inc. celebrates from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, with refreshments, music, a silent auction and tours of the main campus.
“We’re going to do a grassroots party,” said Homer Senior Citizens Executive Director Keren Kelley. “We started as a grassroots and we’re going to celebrate as a grassroots.”
As a physical entity, the senior center didn’t build its own place until 1980, when former Homer Mayor Leo Rhode donated a house and property on Svedlund Street to Homer Senior Citizens. The center started with a facility it continues today, Friendship Center, the adult day services. Rhode wanted a place for his mother to be cared for instead of sending her Outside, Kelley said.
After that, the senior center began adding buildings and programs: a cafeteria and recreation room; Kachemak Bay houses, the first independent living apartments; Friendship Terrace, the assisted living apartments; and the Bartlett Street apartments.
“It reminds me of a PFD (Permanent Fund Dividend) house,” Kelley said. “As money was donated or they made money, or it was bequeathed, that was added to make it a more substantial place for the seniors to come.”
Now, Homer Senior Citizens Inc. has grown to an organization with $7.6 million in fixed assets and an annual operating budget of $2.5 million. With 55 employees, it’s the third largest nonprofit employer in Homer, behind South Peninsula Hospital and The Center. Most of its revenues come in fees, including apartment rents, with $400,000 in government support from the Kenai Peninsula Borough and $32,000 in donations, including Kenai Peninsula United Way support.
The 40 apartments in its four complexes — which have a long waiting list to rent — provide one of the core services to seniors. People age 55 and older are eligible to rent, but they get more than housing, Kelley said.
“We also provide them with services. They get a safety network,” she said.
That includes a nurse who checks on seniors and also Meals on Wheels, as well as van transportation on a sliding scale.
“They become part of our family,” Kelley said of independent living residents. “It’s not like you rent an apartment and you’re left stranded. We help them through their journey.”
Residents needing a bit more assistance, such as some nursing care, can rent one of 44 assisted living apartments next to the main senior center building — connected by a hallway to the cafeteria. The cafeteria provides nutritious, “good old home cooking,” Kelley said.
Seniors age 60 and older can get lunch meals for $5. The senior center also offers activities like dinner-dances and frequent card games.
You don’t have to be 60 to join Homer Senior Citizens Inc. To be eligible to vote and serve on the board, people need to be age 55 or older and can join at a $20 annual fee. Anyone can join as an associate for $25 a year.
Looking into the future, Homer Senior Citizens Inc. has mapped out a strategic plan, Kelley said. It would like to provide assisted living for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and build more independent housing.
At the anniversary party, Homer Senior Citizens also will be asking for people to donate with some immediate projects, like putting in special flooring in adult day services, a $100,000 project.
A lot of support comes through volunteer efforts. Local musicians offer free concerts. Seniors often get free tour boat rides and other adventures. People can volunteer by contacting Daniel Weisser, the activities and volunteer coordinator.
“Without them we couldn’t do what we can do. Our assisted living residents are spoiled, and they should be,” Kelley said.
Michael Armstrong can be reached at email@example.com.
Homer Senior Citizens Inc. 40th anniversary party
12:30-4 p.m. Tuesday
Homer Senior Center
3935 Svedlund St.
Live music, food, tours of facilities, silent auction
Incorporated Nov. 19, 1973
Hours: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday
Membership: Seniors age 55 and older, $20
Associate members: $25 (nonvoting)
11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
Suggested donation: $5 seniors age 60 and older, $9 guests under age 60
Friendship Center Adult Day Services: Programs and activities for adults
Friendship Terrace Assisted Living: 40 one-bedroom apartments for seniors needing some nursing and other assistance.
Independent Housing: 44 one- and two-bedroom apartments in four different complexes, including the Kachemak Bay Apartments, Pioneer Vistas, Bartlett Terrace and Swatzell Terrace.
Meals on Wheels: Daily meals delivered to homebound seniors or those recovering from a hospital stay for illness or injury.
Senior Center: Activities and programs, including exercise groups, recreation rooms, card games, dinner-dances and outings.