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Maricopa Seniors Inc.

Lynn Bernier (left) and Joan Koczor represent a senior population worried about the fate of the Copa Center and the lack of a designated senior center in Maricopa. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The city of Maricopa does not have a senior center.

The building many think of as a senior center may be demolished before the decade is out.

Maricopa does have an organization of senior citizens who like to socialize, plan events and help one another. When they do so, those gatherings are frequently in the Copa Center.

“It’s never been designated as a senior center, but a high number of seniors use it,” City Manager Gregory Rose said.

The Copa Center, a former church on Honeycutt Road, is at least partially in the probable path of the pending highway overpass.

“The seniors are extremely concerned that they have no place to go once it goes away,” said Joan Koczor, who serves on the Age-Friendly Maricopa Advisory Committee to the city council.

The future of the building is “unknown,” Rose said.

The grade separation project on State Route 347 at the Union Pacific Railroad tracks is in the design stage.

Early samples of designs showed the project needing all of the Copa Center property, Rose said. “They may end up needing a portion of it.”

When that might happen is also unknown.

The city bought the Copa Center in 2009 as a community center and leases it by the hour. It may be in the path of the overpass. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
The city bought the Copa Center in 2009 as a community center and leases it by the hour. It may be in the path of the overpass. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“We’ve been told three to five years,” said Lynn Bernier, vice president of Maricopa Seniors, Inc., a nonprofit that offers programs to those age 55-plus and hosts Bingo in the Villages clubhouse.

She said seniors have been searching for a place of their own for years. They initially tried for the former library, but it is now home to the Maricopa Veterans Center. They moved to the now-former Anytime Fitness space for a time.

They obtained use of the Copa Center in 2008.

The city bought the Copa Center as a community center in 2009 for $170,000. The Community Services Department schedules the use of the building. The hourly fee is $30 with the exception of nonprofit organizations, which pay $20, and senior citizen groups, which pay $10.

“We had to fight to get this place cleaned,” Bernier said. “It was so dirty, and there were feces on the floor.”

Seniors also cajoled the city to expand its adult drop-in schedule from four hours to eight hours.

Whether the Copa Center stays or falls is a separate issue from the quest for a senior center, Rose said.

He said the Age-Friendly Committee has been exploring options. That has included tours of senior centers in other communities and discussions of funding mechanisms. They are also looking for ways to obtain a privately funded senior center.

City Councilmember Peg Chapados is president of Maricopa Seniors, Inc. and is liaison along with Nancy Smith from the council to the Age-Friendly Committee. She said the search for options for a senior center has included discussion of purchasing or leasing a building or purchasing or leasing land.

It is not a city project.

“The only thing we’re doing is lending an ear,” Chapados said. “I’m glad it’s a private effort so far.”

But senior leaders know a building with a proper staff could well be out of reach.

“I don’t think we’ll have a senior center,” Bernier said.

Bernier said there is a misconception among some city leaders and officials about the senior population in Maricopa.

“We don’t all live in Province, and we don’t all want to live in Province,” she said.

Koczor said the new mindset for seniors is to stay in their homes and be independent as long as possible. They will have changing needs as they age, and that affects the community.

They do not believe they are asking for much – just an affordable space for socializing, educating, playing cards and board games and hosting events, preferably with a working kitchen.

“We don’t all live in Province, and we don’t all want to live in Province.”

Knowing the days of the Copa Center are probably numbered, Koczor said the senior population of Maricopa is neglected.

She said many felt they were misled when they were approached to support the Copper Sky complex. They were told, she said, two multipurpose rooms and a kitchen would be dedicated to the use of senior citizens. With a change in city personnel, by the time Copper Sky opened that was no longer the case. Whether the city reneged is up to interpretation.

“Like any Realtor, you want to make a sale, and some things may have been said that were misinterpreted or misunderstood,” Chapados said. “Those opportunities exist, but there is a fee to do those things, just like for everybody else.

“You have to look at how much money we had and how many people were asking for things.”

“Seniors can’t afford those fees,” Koczor said. The idea they volunteer at Copper Sky to earn $10 toward the fee did not go over well, either.

The programs the seniors enjoy at the Copa Center are not reliant on the building.

“The programs aren’t going to go away,” Chapados said. “They are here to stay. There will be other opportunities.”

Chapados has been involved with Maricopa Seniors, Inc., since it was founded in 2009. The nonprofit is not about a senior center or membership but about senior programs. Its funding primarily comes from fund-raisers. It supplies 911 Guardian Alert Pendants, which can be programmed to work even away from home, and home key lock boxes that give the Maricopa Fire Department (and only MFD) access to the home.

Its Bingo nights give the seniors a fun and affordable way to get together, Chapados said.

The Copa Center is not the city's senior center, but senior groups use it frequently.
The Copa Center is not the city’s senior center, but senior groups use it frequently.

Lacking a building, senior leaders have turned attention to acquiring more programs and resources. Koczor said the most helpful has been the Pinal-Gila Council for Senior Citizens, based in Casa Grande. The PGCSC provides direction to answers on health, housing, legal issues, support groups and much more.

The creation of the Age-Friendly Committee and the fact Chapados is president of Maricopa Seniors, Inc., are both seen as positives in the seniors’ fight to be noticed in Maricopa.

“At least we have the ear of the council,” said Delphene Armstrong, who is also on the committee.

This story was published in the November issue of InMaricopa News.

Maricopa Fire Fighter Anthony Fornaro installing a lock box for Maricopa Seniors’ 100th customer, Tom & Barb Dickie, Rancho El Dorado residents. Submitted photo

Submitted by Peg Chapados, president of Maricopa Seniors, Inc.

Maricopa Seniors, Inc. recently celebrated the installation of the 100th lock box in Maricopa.

Thanks to a partnership between Maricopa Seniors, Inc., Maricopa Professional Firefighters Union – Local 4561 and Maricopa Fire Department, Maricopa residents have two options that offer peace of mind for about 60 cents a day: the 9-1-1 pendant and Home Key Box programs.

Lynn Bernier is vice-president of Maricopa Seniors and coordinator of the Pendant Program. Lourdes Samples coordinates pendants and lock boxes in Province. Both ladies know and appreciate the value of seniors having one of both of these items.

“Safety of Maricopa’s seniors is our primary concern,” Bernier said. “Our pendants and lock boxes help seniors to feel safe, and that’s important to Maricopa Seniors.”

Samples agrees. “It’s something you don’t think about until an emergency, but they save precious seconds, which often means a good outcome.”

Imagine this: you’re an active senior who lives alone. You have some medical issues, but nothing that will keep you from staying in your home. You’re pro-active about precautions in the event of an emergency, so you have a pendant and a lock box.

One day, you accidentally trip and fall. You’re conscious, but there’s some pain in your hip, so you don’t try to stand. You can’t reach the phone and there’s no one within shouting distance. What will you do?

You push the blue button on your pendant and are connected to the 9-1-1 operator. You can talk to the operator through the pendant, and in a matter of seconds, Maricopa Fire and Maricopa Police have been dispatched; help is on the way.

But you can’t get up to unlock the door. How will they get in?

Your lock box contains keys to your front door. When Maricopa Fire arrives, they don’t have to break down the door. They quickly open the lock box and get the keys. It’s only been a few minutes, and help has arrived.

Pendants work anywhere in the United States or Canada with a 9-1-1 system, so it’s portable for travel or out-of-town stays. It requires a land line, and can be adapted to work through a computer modem line. (The system will not work with cell phones.) There are no contracts, activation charges or monthly fees and the one-time cost is $149.95.

Home Key Boxes come with mounting hardware and maintenance instructions. The box can hold several keys, info about pets in the house, medical conditions, medications, and other vital information. The boxes can only be opened by Maricopa Fire personnel. The one-time cost is $65.

There are over 150 users in Maricopa who have a pendant or lock box, and they’ve been installed in homes in almost every community. These items have saved lives, provided an alternative to forced entry, and enabled peace of mind to those who have the item as well as family and caregivers.

Order forms for the lock boxes can be found at Maricopa Fire Administrative Offices, Building D at the corner of SR347 and Honeycutt Road, at Maricopa ACE Hardware, at Maricopa Seniors, Inc. web site: www.maricopaseniors.org, or by calling Lynn with Maricopa Seniors at 602-377-2284.

For more information about these programs or general information on Maricopa Seniors, email maricopaseniors@hotmail.com.