Jul 11, 2023
By Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer
Living, breathing history books.
This is how staff at the Ron Cross Senior Activity Center views the seniors who visit there on a daily basis.
The activity center, owned and operated by the City of Durant, partners with OHAI (Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative), SONP (Southern Oklahoma Nutrition Program), RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer Program of Bryan County), and many more organizations to serve these living history books.
At the center, there are veterans that span the Korean to Vietnam wars, and also seniors who are retired school teachers, business owners, and more. The activity center offers daily nutritional meals, engaging games, exercise programs, holiday parties, veteran recognitions, Indian taco sales, gospel singings, and weekly karaoke.
With the age of the seniors—the average being 75 and the oldest at 95—it’s a time in their life when there is no need for filters. Just honest, genuine conversations and laughter.
But many of the seniors are facing dire financial situations during this season of life. Residing in a largely agrarian community and having worked on farms and for cash, their Social Security check is minimal. Many live on $400 - $500 per month.
The Ron Cross Senior Activity Center is a fundamental part of their lives.
To expand the way they serve seniors, the center created a food pantry where seniors can shop once a month for a load of groceries. That project was developed through a grant by the Texoma Health Foundation.
With the funds, the center had shelving installed and stocked, along with purchasing a new deep freeze and upgrading the electrical system to handle it. The deep freeze lets the center offer a variety of brand-name meats and dairy to the seniors. The remaining grant funds go toward the SONP nutrition program.
The food pantry is also supported by community efforts, including the local grocer, Pruitt’s Food, who offered a benevolent bid. Once a month, store manager Mike power jacks pallets of food over to the center on foot.
Volunteers unpack and stock the shelves with $6000 worth of groceries. Many of the volunteers are the seniors themselves, who pitch in to get everything ready for shopping.
As a community hub, the activity center provides these seniors with the mental, physical, and health support they need.