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JOY Center aims to continue services despite cuts

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Monica Duran, Left, addressed the crowd at the public hearing Thursday morning at the JOY Center, 1822 North Montana Avenue while Aida Romero waited to speak about programs the JOY Center provides. The JOY Center has had to cope with a $52,000 cut in budget this fiscal year, and Duran and her staff have gotten creative. (Curtis Michaels Photo)

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Chaves County JOY Centers had its annual public hearing Thursday morning at its center on North Montana Avenue. Executive Director Monica Duran led the meeting.

Duran translated during the meeting so that all concerns raised and all responses were in both English and Spanish.
Debra Young spoke of the need many seniors have of long distance transportation for medical care. Duran said unless they are on Medicaid, Seniors have trouble getting to Lubbock, Albuquerque and Las Cruces for medical care. She said this will be addressed with the state again this year.
Aida Romero asked how important it is to speak to legislators about fitness class. Duran said the New Mexico Senior Olympics helps fund the exercise program, and they get money from state and federal government. She encouraged them to tell their legislators about this need.
A number of people stood up to express their appreciation for the exercise classes, and to tell how their lives are better for it.
There was discussion about chore services in which volunteers help with cleaning and light maintenance for seniors. The need to have a program to do more intensive maintenance on seniors’ homes was discussed as well. Duran said the United Way had a presenter talk about that subject, and that she would ask them to get her in touch with that person again to help find solutions.
Duran said that aside from what is being said at the public hearing, they also sent forms out to their meals recipients, their transportation recipients and their housekeeping recipients. The forms were sent to all the centers as well, and many have been returned expressing concerns and needs. She also said she would speak to the lunch crowd about their chance to express concerns, and that all input was welcomed in writing until 5 p.m.
There was also a status report on some items being purchased through a grant from Leprino Foods. The grant was approved and Duran said that in the next few months they would have two new pieces of exercise equipment and a salad bar.
At the end of the meeting Duran reminded everyone of the importance of letting all of our representatives know of senior needs in Chaves County. She also told them she will continue to invite legislators to the JOY Center to help give them a voice.
Duran sat down with the Daily Record after the meeting to discuss the hearing and where the JOY Center stands today.
“I feel the public hearing went really well,” Duran said. “I feel it helps that I am bilingual and it helps make more people comfortable. We really like to hear what they need, if we’re dropping the ball of if there’s a need we hadn’t anticipated.”
She discussed the financial hit the JOY Center took this past year.
“Officially, we lost $52,000,” Duran said. “Actually, we got hit a little harder than that. There is a program called the Senior Employment Program. The JOY Center is fortunate that we had 10 slots, so when we started fiscal year 2016-17 we started out with 10 slots. In the 5 1/2 percent cut that we first got we lost one slot. In that time frame we had a senior who needed to resign. When I reported that back they said they would not allow us to fill it, so we lost that slot as well.”
They are starting fiscal year 2017-18 with eight slots, but some have stepped up to help.
“Goodwill provided us with two senior employment program participants,” Duran said. “One is our afternoon receptionist and the other is our yard guy.”
Duran and her staff are constantly seeking ways to keep the center funded and the people working.
“We’ve been applying for grants and seeking other ways to fill the void,” she said. “We lost some staff and we reduced staffing hours to spread out the loss as much as possible. We did this across all the JOY centers. It affected operating hours.
“We asked about help at the United Way meeting and there were a couple of people from there who said they could help us. The Career Link program is on-the-job training up to six months. United Way pays the people to work here, so it doesn’t affect our budget. They have to be looking for work, but they are potentially looking at becoming permanent employees if we are hiring. We have taken on some of them. We work with them to learn the job skills they came for.”
They have been working to whittle down the waiting lists for services.
“Because of the cuts we have had some waiting lists,” Duran said, “but this coming fiscal year we’re trying to be optimistic about services. We addressed the waiting list for adult day care. We were able to request funds through United Way and this year we were granted $30,000 through United Way. We’ve received United Way funding in years past, but this year we got more than usual. We hope that we’ve addressed a little bit of the needed hours for adult day care. Probably sometime during this fiscal year we’ll end up with a waiting list again.
“Our housekeeping program has a waiting list and we will go into fiscal year 2017-18 with a waiting list. We have two housekeepers now that provide about 2,500 hours a year.”
The New Mexico Employability Partnership has been able to help them with one of their biggest problems.
“Currently, I have a person here through employability,” Duran said. “They’re people who can’t do their regular job. They might be on workmans’ comp for example. We have a driver now thanks to that program.”
With all the juggling necessary to keep the doors open, Duran said the public hearings are vital to the process.
“These public hearings are a way for us to know what the senior community needs,” she said. “If we’re not hearing you, let us know so that we can address your needs.”
Duran knows that they just need to keep moving forward as best they can, and all work together to succeed.
“I feel really optimistic with the staff we have,” she said. “Most of them have been here for years. Our case manager has been here about 33 years. Most of the people here do this because of the joy it brings to their heart. We take it day by day and hope for the best.”
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.