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Farmington EDA will offer scholarships for seniors

Quite a few new members joined the Rambling River Center when it moved to its current location on Oak Street, but quite a few others ended their memberships.

For some who left, it was the proximity -- they were residents of Red Oak Manor or Spruce Place apartments, and the old location on Spruce Street was close enough for them to walk over. For others, it was the increased cost for membership that drove them away. Either way, a scholarship program approved by the Farmington Economic Development Authority Monday may help some of those folks come back to the Rambling River Center.

On a 3-2 vote Monday, the Farmington EDA set aside $16,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for a scholarship program that would help Farmington seniors with low- to moderate income levels participate in some of Rambling River Center's programs, or even help to pay for memberships.

According to Farmington parks and recreation director Randy Distad, about 400 seniors now belong to the Rambling River Center, but the latest census statistics show Farmington has a population of approximately 1,100 men and women over age 65. Knowing there were CDBG funds available, he and Rambling River Center coordinator Missie Kohlbeck came up with a plan, called the Older Adult Financial Support Program, to entice more people to join.

Issued by the Dakota County Community Development Agency, CDBG funds can be used, in part, for services for the community. CDBG guidelines require that 70 percent of the funds be used for activities that benefit low- to moderate income persons. CDA representative Lisa Henning said the CDA already considers the $16,000 to be allocated for senior services in Farmington, whether through programming or using the funds for scholarships. Distad and Kohlbeck sought to use the entire allocation as a means to help bring more seniors to the center through the OAFSP.

When the new building opened, Kohlbeck said, the membership fees jumped from $10 per person to $25 per person. A couples fee had been in place but was eliminated. While the new location meant more flexibility with programs, and the move attracted many new members, others had to drop their memberships for financial reasons.

"We just feel this is a wonderful opportunity to get some of those people back," Kohlbeck said.

By their proposal, the $16,000 could be used for membership assistance, for membership to the Rambling River Center's fitness center, or to help a senior participate in a fee-based program offered through Rambling River Center.

The funds could also be used to arrange transportation for the seniors at Red Oak Manor and Spruce Place to get to the Rambling River Center. Even though the new location is only a block away, many of those residents are frail, and making that walk has deterred them from participating in the programs offered there.

According to Henning, the CDA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have a set of guidelines that have to be followed when it comes to using CDBG funds for senior services. In particular, the funds must be used for persons 62 and older, and they must fall under the low to moderate income guidelines established by HUD.

EDA member Jeri Jolley questioned whether the entire $16,000 had to go to the scholarship program, or if some of the funds could be used for new programs at Rambling River Center. It could be allocated to both, Henning said, with the caveat that the programs would have to be for people age 62 and older.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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