Belle Silver Lining Senior Center Steps Up Fundraising Efforts | Local News

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BELLE FOURCHE — Belle Silver Lining Senior Center is set to host a picnic and raffle on June 4 to benefit the center and help recover from the financial hardships it has suffered over the past few years.

Laura Bennett, executive director of the senior center, told the Pioneer that fundraising efforts are perpetually necessary to keep senior centers running.

“We had to fundraise from day one,” she said.

When she took the center job in 2018, Bennett said there were 15 local senior members.

“And now we have well over 350 (members),” she said, adding that membership of the center is open to people aged 45 and over. “It took a lot of people to do a lot of work.”

Belle Silver Lining, like other senior centers in the area, offers a wide variety of services, from nutrition and wellness programs to social and recreational activities.

“Now we see so many families looking after their elderly (parents) and keeping them in their homes,” Bennett said. “So we don’t limit our services.”

Seniors or those caring for seniors need help with anything related to care or family support, Belle Silver Lining is here to help. And you don’t even have to be a member, Bennet said.

Belle Silver Lining Senior Center is a registered non-profit organization that is member owned and governed by a Board of Directors.

To sustain their operations, senior centers must mobilize resources from a variety of sources. These could include federal, state and local governments; special events; public and private subsidies; businesses; participant contributions; in-kind donations; and volunteers.

Learning to run a nonprofit involved a steep learning curve for Bennett’s board members.

“For the first couple of years, we couldn’t even really get grants…” Bennett said, explaining that the center didn’t have the data necessary for the grant acquisition process. “We weren’t a new start-up…if you wanted something for an established 501c3, you had to have data to support your need for this grant.”

After learning about the need for the data, Bennett said she prioritized data collection in hopes of qualifying for grant opportunities in the future.

In 2020, after 35 years of partnership with the EHPAD Belle Fourche, Meals on Wheels is asked to leave the establishment. Meals on Wheels moved to another location and continued its activities within Belle Fourche.

Shortly after, Bennett said the center launched its own seniors meal program.

“The need was greater,” she said. “We saw the need to start our own meal program.”

As a result, she said the center was no longer eligible for state funding.

“The state’s original response was, ‘We don’t support more than one (program) in a county,'” Bennett said.

For almost two years, the center has been serving lunch to more than 40 to 100 people in the centre’s cafeteria, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., seven days a week, including holidays.

“For almost two years now, we have been subsidizing (the funds for the meal program) ourselves,” Bennett said. “And that kind of put us in financial difficulty.”

During this period, the center has accumulated more than $50,000 in debt.

“The financial burden was just from (adding their own) meal program,” Bennett said.

“Honestly, when we started, we had no idea what we were doing,” she said. “We didn’t know how much it would cost (to operate a meal program).”

And then, when COVID-19 hit the region hard, Bennett said the group’s fundraising efforts came to an abrupt halt due to health and safety concerns.

Additionally, Bennett said food costs have risen 37% since 2020 and are estimated to rise another 14%.

“There are things we didn’t plan for,” she says. “I think we took a leap of faith that was really difficult. We’ve had board members donate $20,000 because they believe so much.

Ongoing fundraising efforts on behalf of the center include toffee rolls and coffee sales every Friday and a thrift store that sells donated items and is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

To continue to help fund the center’s efforts, Belle Silver Lining is currently hosting a fundraising raffle.

“This is a major fundraiser to bring in a nice, appreciable amount of money,” Bennett said, holding out hope for the center’s future.

With a goal of raising $20,000, the center should sell 1,000 tickets.

Raffle tickets are $20 each or six for $100 and can be purchased at Belle Fourche at Belle Silver Lining, Olive Branch, Office Emporium and Designs by Daphne Gallery.

On June 4, Belle Silver Lining will be hosting a picnic and raffle at Rail Park on State Street in Belle Fourche. At 1 p.m., the winners of the raffle will be drawn. The raffle winners will be able to choose from a number of prizes, including ½ processed lamb, a 21.7 cubic foot chest freezer, gift certificates, a portable grill, and more.

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