Donations from two neighborhood associations save popular Senior Center program

Twice a week, Mary Banyard walks to the Southwest Senior Center, where an exercise class focusing on weightlifting and flexibility training helps her stay limber and keeps her aches at bay.

Like others in the class, Banyard, in her late 80s, likes that the sessions are tailored to seniors. And because she doesn’t drive, getting to another exercise program would be difficult.

Thanks to grants from the Kingfield Neighborhood Association and the East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association, she won’t have to. Kingfield donated $5,000 and EHFNA $1,573 to keep two exercise classes going at the Southwest Senior Center, located at 3612 Bryant Ave. S.

For the past five years, the center had received funding for the program through the Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging (MAAA), which provided Volunteers of America Minnesota with funding to provide exercise programs to seniors in Minneapolis. The funding supported a number of projects in the city – of which the one at the Southwest Senior Center was the best attended – but this year, the MAAA decided to use the funding for a grocery delivery program instead.

Southwest Senior Center Director Mary Ann Schoenberger said when she learned the center would not receive funding from the MAAA, she immediately began looking to other sources. Requesting funding from the area neighborhoods made sense because Southwest residents largely comprise the participants in the program. Just before the center’s current funding for the program ran out at the end of December, Schoenberger received word that the neighborhoods would fund the classes.

The two classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays usually have 20-25 seniors in attendance. Participants are asked to make a donation that amounts to about $1 per class if they can.

Many in the class probably wouldn’t seek an exercise program elsewhere if their program were cut, Schoenberger said, because affordability is an issue for some and proximity and transportation for others.

Pat Marentic, a 64-year-old East Harriet resident, is another faithful attendee of the senior center’s exercise classes. She said she wouldn’t go elsewhere for an exercise program if the senior center’s classes had been canceled.

“It’s kind of like a family,” she said about the center’s exercise classes. “I’m so glad I found it.”