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ASI — working for Pagosa’s seniors

Archuleta Seniors, Inc. (ACI) is the hardworking, well organized and enthusiastic non-profit fund-raising and support group for area seniors.

ACI provides constant and continuing services for senior citizens throughout Archuleta County. The organization is primarily known by many as the driving force behind the popular annual Oktoberfest celebration coming up this year on Oct. 3. We know that by enjoying this festive evening, feasting on German fare, enjoying micro-brewed beer and root beer, dancing to a live band and competing in best dressed and best dancer contests, we contribute to the success of programs for seniors. Few people, however, realize how hard members of this group work or what they accomplish each year.

ACI was organized as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in 2003. It is organized and operated exclusively for charitable purposes to promote and enhance the health, well-being, social, cultural and intellectual activities of its members. ACI is not an arm of Archuleta County government. It does not receive county funds for its many programs. It does not employ county employees or rely on county-provided services. Rather, it supports seniors independently, through fund-raising events and provides funds for medical support, field trips and other social activities. ACI also provides equipment for the Silver Foxes Den located in the Ross Aragon Community Center.

Additionally, ACI serves a vital role as Archuleta County’s local Council on Aging. The State of Colorado requires that counties have a local Council on Aging in place and active before it will allocate funds designated for senior services. The state gives this money to Archuleta County and the county uses this money to help with senior programs.

Income-qualified senior medical support is far reaching and varied, and is provided to many people. Since 2003, seniors have been helped with many aspects of medical care including eye appointments and eyeglasses, dental care, physical therapy, hearing checks and hearing aids, medical transportation (both locally and to Durango) and prescription co-pay assistance.

The ultimate goal of ACI is to assist and encourage seniors to live independently and comfortably in their own homes. Addressing and assisting with medical concerns is one way that ACI helps seniors maintain their independence as long as possible, but this is only one aspect of happiness and independence. When seniors (and everyone for that matter) have cultural and social activities available to them, they usually enjoy a fuller, more contented lifestyle.

Since 2003, ACI has purchased an amazing array of items that seniors enjoy in the Silver Foxes Den. In the Senior Lounge, one finds love seats, chairs, a sofa, a television, window coverings, computers (with desks, chairs and printer), and card tables that have been provided by ACI. How inviting might a lounge be without these items?

ACI was able to purchase the salad bar table/equipment used for the senior lunches (available to those 60 and older each weekdays except Thursday). Since this donation, food service workers have been able to provide an extensive salad bar that is a favorite meal feature. The seniors now also enjoy a digital camera, a wireless PA system and wired remote headset for the bus driver’s use when taking seniors about. And, on any given day, the karaoke machine in the dining room made possible by ACI might be in use as a PA system or to play music.

One does not usually wish to speed up the aging process, but when all the social activities provided by ACI are considered, being an Archuleta senior might seem tempting. These activities often include greatly reduced admission rates, transportation, meals, and a near guarantee of a great time!

These are not just “low impact” activities. Seniors have ridden the recently restored Rio Grande Train from Alamosa. They have traveled to Chaco Canyon. They have enjoyed fall color tours throughout southwest Colorado. They have visited Silverton, Creede, the Bar D Chuckwagon and other establishments in Durango, the museum in Dolores and the crane festival near Monte Vista. And, yes, they have been seen rafting on both the San Juan and the Animas rivers.

In addition to the Oktoberfest, there are other seasonal festivals the seniors look forward to, including the annual Christmas party at lunchtime. Watch the Senior News column in The SUN as well as your monthly newsletter for details. When spring rolls around and the teens are all abuzz about the senior prom, local senior citizens get into the act just as enthusiastically. One of the most highly attended events of the year is the “Senior-Senior Prom.” Decorations are left in place at the school after the teens have their annual ball, and the seniors, in their finest ball gowns, tuxedos, (or whatever) take to the dance floor the next day and have one fun celebration.

When they are not “in the bus and on the go” seniors enjoy regularly scheduled classes, seminars, meals and activities at Silver Foxes Den at the community center. The Silver Foxes Den can be accessed through the main door of the center, but a more convenient door is located on the east side of the building.

Many activities at the Silver Foxes Den and elsewhere are sponsored by the county, but the cost for speakers and or teachers is often covered by funds from ACI. An example of this is the Tai Chi class that started this week in Arboles. The class is at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays at the Catholic church. ACI provides transportation for instructor Pam Kircher, who is hoping for a great turnout. Tai Chi has proven to be effective in balance control and in reducing the threat of falls.

OK, so how can you become a part of all of this? When you reach age 55 you can become a card-carrying member of Archuleta Seniors, Inc. Roughly 1,000 people are already members. They can enjoy all the services mentioned above, and more. There are currently 40 participating area merchants who offer discounts on products or services. The ACI membership cost is one of the best deals in Archuleta County; membership is $5 per calendar year. Memberships for 2010 can be purchased now at the Silver Foxes Den on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Archuleta Seniors, Inc. is entirely run by volunteers; there is absolutely no overhead in this operation. Every penny earned goes to help local seniors in some way. The board is made up of 14 members. A director serves a two-year term and officers are elected annually. This is a relatively short commitment to make. One of the reasons for the option of a short term is that this group does not want its volunteers to “burn out.” Because this small group does so much work, volunteers are always welcome, and needed. Information about volunteering or other aspects of ACI is available with a phone call to 264-2127, Ext. 25. If you call outside ACI business hours, leave a message and a board member will return your call.

Not 55 yet? No problem. You may not have reached the age when you can participate in programs as a senior, but you can volunteer to help with many activities. Volunteers of all ages are currently involved. Perhaps, for example, you have seen the teens and preteens who volunteer as wait staff at Oktoberfest.

A final note about Oktoberfest is in order, now that you know how important this great fund-raiser is for ACI. The date is Saturday, Oct. 3, from 4:30-8:30 p.m. Advance tickets can be obtained at the Ross Aragon Community Center, the Chamber of Commerce or the Plaid Pony. Prices are: adults — $20 advance or $25 at the door; ACI members — $12 advance and $15 at the door; children ages 5-12 — $5 both in advance and at the door. Children under 5 are admitted free. The adult ticket price includes an authentic German meal and commemorative stein. Children’s ticket price includes a hot dog, chips and festive mug. Coffee, iced tea and lemonade are included in the cost of the meal. Adults will receive a commemorative stein, and children will receive an unbreakable stein. A stein can be filled with micro-brewed beer for $3 or with root beer for $1. Bottled water will also be available for $1.

While enjoying your meal you can take a break to dance, or you can clap, stomp, and sing along with the band and the merry-makers on the dance floor. The big chicken will return for your enjoyment, and may very well get you out on the floor to learn the Chicken Dance! While you are having all this fun, take time to remember who you are helping, and if at all possible, seek out an Archuleta Seniors, Inc. member to thank them for everything the group does for our community.