Encore program needs help

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, January 10, 2018

To the Editor:

The Encore program for seniors 50 and older is run by the Workforce Development Center under the umbrella of Paul D Camp Community College. It is coordinated by a part-time employee, and from our Encore participants’ perspective, is a much-enjoyed and much-needed offering to the senior community. It combines educational sessions on many different topics such as art, religion, kayaking, genealogy and chess, led by community volunteers, community college staff, destination leaders at field trip sites, and others, with the social aspect of periodically getting together with new friends for an hour or more to enjoy a class, movie and sometimes lunch along the way. It’s not like taking a class for weeks at a time, no tests or papers involved. Basically, it’s learning for the pure joy and fun of it, little bits at a time!

Since its inception several years ago, the cost to seniors was $30 per semester or $50 per year. What a deal! Certain extra programming required additional costs, but most offerings were fully covered by the Encore program.

As it turns out, and to no surprise to most of us, the low participation fees could not even cover expenses. However, a lot of us had assumed that some sort of grant money was involved to help with the program. When we recently found out otherwise, we were not shocked to learn that costs for participants would have to go up in order to maintain the program.

But in all honesty, we WERE somewhat shocked as to how much per person, plus all admissions, plus a do-or-die minimum number of participants to break even starting this January! Paying admissions is fine; we probably should have been doing that all along. The new yearly-only participation cost is a big jump — not impossible for many, a definite restrictive factor for some — especially when doubled to accommodate both husband and wife, and likely a prohibitive factor for some. And the minimum number is 58. Well, I believe only once have our numbers exceeded that, so… we wonder if we can even reach that magic number to continue, especially since participation costs ballooned.

We have heard that other senior programs in the area are having difficulties, too, so maybe there is a way to combine forces and programs in the future. But right now we need to get that magic number of participants come January registration. If you are a senior who had not known about Encore before this, please go by the Workforce Development Center or check their website for more information. If we can keep the program going for 2018, it will give us some time to try to adjust participation fees or somehow provide scholarship help for our senior friends whose budgets cannot justify the jump in costs. Keeping our seniors active, interested and feeling alive has got to be a plus for our community as a whole. Thanks for whatever anyone can do.

Barbara Herrala