Brunswick Senior Resources, Inc. Helps in Many Ways
Brunswick Senior Resources, Inc. enhances the quality of life for older adults in Brunswick County.
PHOTOGRAPHY by Lindsay A. Miller
A dozen men and women follow the lead of tai chi instructor Dean Sutzer in the cool serenity of an all-purpose room at the Brunswick Center in Shallotte. “In tai chi we have a saying that Movement is Life,” Sutzer says. For the thousands of local seniors who benefit from the many services provided by the Brunswick Senior Resources, Inc. (BSRI), that could not be more true.
BSRI was established in February 2002 and soon after received not-for-profit public charity status. “Our mission is to promote the well-being and enhance the quality of life for all senior adults in Brunswick County,” says BSRI President and CEO Jim Fish, who joined the team in 2011. “We accomplish this by delivering programs and services that encourage independence as well as participation in the local community.”
The organization was chartered to be the lead resource for adults over age 60 in the county and host to a list of services, including Meals on Wheels, Case Management Services, Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) assistance, educational outreach, transportation services, health and fitness programs, and more.
Debra Marlowe joined BSRI in 2010. “BSRI started out with a few sites and a long list of services, but it was like an explosion happened when Jim Fish took the wheel,” she says.
Marlowe coordinates all of the marketing and outreach events, is the liaison to the 10-member board of directors and serves as Fish’s assistant. The board is composed of five elected members and five members who are appointed by the county commissioners to represent the five geographic regions in the county.
“It is no secret that Brunswick County is expanding rapidly,” she says. “It is home to more than 40,000 senior citizens, and that number is growing every year. Currently around 48 percent of the population is over age 50.”
Fish adds that BSRI has grown rapidly as well. It has 34 employees and more than 200 volunteers at three senior centers and seven senior sites throughout the county.
Centers are staffed and open five days per week from 8 am to 4 pm. Sites are open two or three days per week on a variety of schedules. Recently, all three centers were recognized as Senior Centers of Excellence by the North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services. “When BSRI was formed, the goal was set to achieve this certification,” Fish says. “In fact, all three centers achieved perfect scores in the certification process.”
The senior centers are located in Shallotte, Southport and Leland, and the senior sites are located in Ash, Boiling Springs Lakes, Calabash, Oak Island, Supply-Lockwood Folly, Sunset Harbor and Town Creek. Through a partnership with Brunswick Transit Inc, transportation is available to and from each facility by making a reservation 48 hours in advance.
Each facility offers a variety of signature programs. At the Ashe location, seniors gather for board games and exercise classes. Mah Jong and Rummikub are on the schedule at Boiling Springs Lakes, along with a card club and several fitness classes. At Calabash, seniors gather for coffee and snacks before the cards and games or exercise classes begin. At Oak Island, there are Wii games, board games and cards.
At Sunset Harbor, folks gather for Bingo and arts and crafts, The Supply-Lockwood Folly Site offers a walking trail, horseshoes, shuffleboard and corn hole, and at Town Creek, coffee, games, tennis, Bocce ball and yoga are on the schedule.
The Leland Center offers weekly painting classes, a chess club, fitness classes and billiards. Shallotte offers weekly line-dancing classes, tai chi, knitting and crocheting classes as well as quilting. Southport offers ballroom dancing and square dancing, as well as basketball and pickle ball.
“Our most popular program is meal service,” Marlowe says. All 10 facilities serve congregate (eat in) meals and provide deliveries to homebound Meals on Wheels recipients. “To order a congregate meal, seniors need only call their local center one day in advance,” Marlowe says. “So many seniors say it is nice to come into the facility and share a meal with friends old and new.”
Last year BSRI served more than 100,000 meals to participants, averaging 3,760 congregate meals and delivering 4,456 meals per month to homebound seniors. “Sometimes the only social contact those homebound seniors have during the week is the knock on the door from a Meals on Wheels driver,” Marlowe says.
The organization continues to move and grow. Administrative offices moved to the new Brunswick Center at Shallotte in 2012 while it was being prepared to open for programs in 2014. “There was a long period of waiting for permits and renovations,” Marlowe says.
Now the 22,000-square-foot building has expansive space for many diverse programs. On the ground floor, there is a room with senior-friendly exercise equipment, a large open area for active fitness programs such as aerobics and dance classes, a well-stocked arts and crafts room, a library with computers and Internet access, a quilting room, a billiards room and a commercial kitchen and a dining room that comfortably seats at least 100 people.
“We offer a variety of classes from yoga and Pilates and tai chi to art and computers,” Marlowe says. Exercise classes are opened to anyone age 55 and older. For those over age 60, classes are free.
Throughout the year, BSRI also schedules a variety of fee-based trips such as local shopping trips and one-day regional excursions by motor coach; they’ve also scheduled weekend getaways and week-long Caribbean cruises.
BSRI is continuing to keep pace with the county’s growth and is expanding accordingly. Ground was broken in February 2016 on the first new construction project for the organization — the Leland Senior Center. The two-story, 12,400-square-foot facility is at the corner of Village Road and Town Hall Drive and is expected to open in early 2017.
Fundraising is underway to convert the Calabash facility into a renovated, 12,000-square-foot Senior Center on a spacious 5 acres along Beach Drive. In 2017 there are preliminary plans to convert the Town Creek site into a center on a new 3.5-acre plot.
Operating on a nearly $3 million annual budget, much of which is funded from national and local grants and local fundraising as well as funds from Brunswick County and the local Area Agency on Aging, BSRI is keeping pace with the needs of the growing senior population. Each center conducts fundraisers including yard sales, craft sales, dances and concerts. In addition, BSRI operates a thrift store on Beach Drive in Calabash, where all purchases benefit senior programs, services and resources. Donations to the store are tax deductible.
This fall BSRI will hold its first county-wide fundraiser. In conjunction with Ocean Ridge Charities, BSRI will host the Casino Night for Charities to benefit BSRI programs and services, Lower Cape Fear Hospice and the BCC Nursing scholarship program. Catered by award-winning chef Ryan Gibbs, the event will include 16 tables with games of chance. “This will become our new annual fundraising event,” Marlowe says.
It is clear that Marlowe loves her job. Peeking in at Sutzer’s tai chi class in progress, she says, “This is what it’s all about. Seeing them in action is the best feeling.”
For more information about Brunswick Senior Resources Inc. or to make a donation, visit BSRINC.org or call (910) 754-2300. All financial contributions are tax deductible.
BSRI manages and administers the following programs county wide:
- Meals on Wheels
- Patient Assistance (MARP)
- Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP)
- Medication Management
- Family Caregiver Support
- Senior Medical Patrol (Fraud Prevention)
- Medical Transportation
- General Transportation
- Case Management Services
- Ramps and Rails
- Information and Referral
- Heaters and Fans Program
- Incontinence Products Donation Programs
- Evidence-Based Programs
- Liquid Nutrition Supplement Program (BOOST)
- Weekend Supplemental Food Program
- In-Home Aide Services