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Taylorsville Journal

AARP grant bringing new gardening boxes to Taylorsville Senior Center

Oct 05, 2018 03:50PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Refugees who spent much of their lives gardening are now getting an opportunity to continue that pastime, outside the Taylorsville Senior Center. (Google)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Taylorsville Senior Center (4743 South 1625 West) officials say the number of immigrant and refugee seniors making use of their many programs has been steadily growing in recent years. And that trend prompted the Salt Lake County operators of the center to apply for a grant from the American Association of Retired Persons .

This summer, AARP officials announced the local senior center was one of only two Utah applicants to receive funding, through the organization’s “2018 Community Challenge” grant program.

“A total of $1.3 million will be distributed nationwide to fund 129 ‘quick-action’ programs across the country, helping communities make immediate improvements to support residents,” AARP leaders said in a news release. “Nearly 1,600 applications were received from nonprofits and government entities for the program, now in its second year.”

Utah’s only other AARP grant recipient this year is Habitat for Humanity, which will use their funds to organize painting and yard cleanup at 100 Ogden homes. 

At the Taylorsville Senior Center, the modest $2,255 grant is funding planter boxes outside the facility.

“When I first heard we won the grant, I was ecstatic because this will really help our refugees feel even more welcome,” said Salt Lake County Aging and Adult Services Community Care Transitions Program Manager Charise Jensen, who drafted the grant proposal. “This will help make the Taylorsville Senior Center more welcoming to refugees—a place for them to heal and feel welcome.”

Jensen reports 15 to 20 senior refugees visit the Taylorsville facility regularly, giving that site the second highest population of immigrant “regulars” among all the senior centers the county operates.

In her AARP grant proposal, Jensen said, “Although the garden will be open to all senior center participants, refugee seniors will be specially recruited to participate in the project. Refugees face unique and complex challenges when they come to the United States. Gardening offers a place for healing and gathering.”

Jensen noted in the application, the Taylorsville Senior Center “caters to elderly refugees from (the African countries of) Sudan, South Sudan and Burundi (among others).”

The grant funding is being used to construct raised garden beds and to purchase gardening supplies.

“We are very excited (with the grant funding) because it will provide a wonderful opportunity for our refugee program to reach more seniors,” said Taylorsville Senior Center Manager Pauline McBride. “We are reaching out to different refugee groups to try to make them aware of our many different activities. Our ELS  classes are also growing. We want to reach out to all people over age 60.” 

The AARP was founded in 1958. The nonprofit, nonpartisan association now has more than 40 million members.

Jensen adds this grant is one of two her county career transitions program has recently earned.

“The other grant was awarded by the federal Health and Human Services Department, through its Office of Refugee Resettlement,” she said. “That grant allowed us to hire a case worker, to better assist refugees with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits.”

Jensen said those federal dollars were routed through the Utah Department of Workforce Services last fall, with the new case worker hired in February.

Taylorsville Mayor Kristie Overson is pleased to see many of her city’s facility administrators and departments taking the initiative to seek grant funding to help accomplish their goals.

“I knew the (Taylorsville) Senior Center (staff) wanted to build garden beds, and we thought it was a great idea,” Overson said. “When they said they would seek grant funding, we told them ‘go for it.’ I think it’s wonderful they are always looking for ways to enhance the center and looking for creative ways to pay for it.”

Taylorsville City Councilman Ernest Burgess agrees.

“It’s huge when groups like this go out to seek grant funding,” he said. “I am very active with the YMCA (Community Family Center, 4223 South 1570 West), and they fund as much as they can through grant money. It helps a lot and [city officials] encourage it.” 

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