Seniors of the Austin community deal with the cold weather while staying warm at the Senior Satellite Center located at 5701 W. Congress Parkway.
The South Austin Coalition is known in the community for providing services to seniors including help with their utilities. But with the weather reaching dangerous lows, the staff of the center reaches out to those who are living without gas, electric or water service. SACCC’s executive director, Bob Vondrasek, said that with the weather being dangerous, staff called many seniors to see if they are doing OK during the cold.
“The actual warming center is located on 10 S. Kedzie, but seniors come to the Satellite Center for activities or watch TV until 4:30 p.m.,” Vondrasek said.
“Many just came in for assistance with CETA and their gas,” he added
Center staff said they didn’t see an increase of visitors due of the weather as most seniors decided to stay home. The staff of 14 workers and volunteers have helped up to 50 seniors weekly during the winter. They’ve also provided programs to keep them active including arts and crafts, exercise and board games. In addition, a well-balanced lunch is served every day at noon.
Although the winter hit dangerous lows, some seniors in the community said that they didn’t have a problem with it this year. Austin Resident Charles Smith, 82, said that the only thing he had to worry about was the snow. He had to pay $20 to have guys come shovel it.
“I had no problem because I had a nice heating system and I had a little food,” Smith said. “This is my first time here for my gas bill and light bill, but I’m fully prepared. At least I hope so, fingers crossed,” he said.
More residents have been to the center this year to apply for help with their utilities. “People call when their utilities are off, both young people and old people.” said Lillian Drummond, 92, who is in charge of utilities at the satellite center.
“Some haven’t been doing too good; a lot of cold calls have been made for those who don’t have light or gas,” Drummond said.
“We go to their house to check on them, but a lot of people have no gas or lights so we try to help them get their stuff on,” she added.
The center opened its doors in 2004 after 10 years of petitioning to create a location accessible to seniors. Since the opening, the center has served more than 1,500 seniors from all over Chicago.