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Serving seniors

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By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — With the ranks of older people surging, Senior Services in Winston-Salem aims to expand its programs and facilities to address its clients’ increasing needs and tap them as volunteers.

The 30-year-old nonprofit has launched the silent phase of a drive to raise $5.5 million to build a bigger headquarters building to house its growing Meals on Wheels program, along with other services it provides in clients’ homes, says Richard Gottlieb, the nonprofit’s president and CEO.

In addition to the drive, to begin its public phase this fall, Senior Services has kicked off its second annual “Edible Evenings” fundraising effort that raised $68,000 for Meals on Wheels in the second half of 2003.

That effort, a series of individually hosted fundraising dinners, was one of a number of special events and annual-fund activities that raised $800,000 in the fiscal year ended June 30, up 27.6 percent from the previous year.

Faced with rising demand for services, Gottlieb says, annual fundraising plays an increasingly critical role, and poses a particular challenge this year as the organization quietly solicits donors for gifts to the capital drive.

“Because you are utilizing so many volunteers and approaching so many donors for major gifts,” he says, “it sometimes puts a strain on the operational support.”

Census data indicate that for every 1,000 residents over age 65 today, Forsyth County will have nearly 1,600 in 2020 and more than 2,000 in 2030, Gottlieb says, an explosion that will be fueled by the aging of Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964.

“Never before in history have we had the numbers of seniors living that we have today,” he says. “We’re in the midst of a profound and unprecedented increase in the number of older adults.”

That growth has strained Senior Services as it tries to keep pace with escalating demand for services.

The organization finds itself out of space and in need of “ongoing and continuing financial support to take care of the growing number of seniors who are low-income and can’t pay for services,” Gottlieb says.

The organization’s Meals on Wheels program, for example, served 1,068 different individuals in the fiscal year just ended, up from 964 a year earlier, and delivered 197,619 meals, up from 179,957.

Yet the program, which delivers 740 meals a day to seniors on average, still has a waiting list of 115 people.

“It feels like, despite our significant growth, that we just can’t catch up,” Gottlieb.

The growing ranks of older people also represent a growing pool of potential volunteers for Senior Services, which already counts on nearly 2,000 volunteers, many of them seniors.

“There are so many more people who have the time to give back to the community,” Gottlieb says, “and we are trying to capitalize on that.”

Senior Services is recruiting hosts to sponsor dinners for Edible Evenings, which is co-sponsored by Southern Community Bank and by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which also donated 10 acres worth $2 million that will house the organization’s new headquarters building.

Senior Services has hired Calloway Johnson Moore & West in Winston-Salem as architect for the project and currently is selecting a contractor.

William F. Womble Sr. of Womble Carlyle chairs this year’s annual fund, and John W. Burress, chairman of John W. Burness Inc., chairs the capital drive.

For information on Edible Evenings, visit edibleevenings.org or call 748-5932.

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