The Columbus Community Center is getting a hefty chunk of change to help upgrade its kitchen equipment and provide further support to the people it serves.

The Senior Center received $35,500 in funds from the Nebraska Presbyterian Foundation as part of its first fall grant cycle. That money will go toward a modernization of kitchen equipment that had been part of the facility since the days that it was the Columbus Community Hospital.  Due to a renovation of the second and third floors above the center into affordable senior housing, maintenance requires a change in the facility’s steam-powered equipment.

“We have the original commercial dish machine and commercial steamer, and because of what they’re doing upstairs, they needed to change the steam in order to control each unit upstairs individually,” said Cindy Branting, manager of the Columbus Community Center. “That affects our equipment. While our equipment still runs, now we need to replace it because of how the mechanics of our building is going to change.”

The organization believes that it will help an additional 50 people through the upgraded kitchen equipment, which will benefit its nutrition program as well as the many social programs that the Senior Center provides, like bingo, music, pool and cards. The services that the Senior Center provides to Columbus were among the many reasons why Presbyterian Foundation representatives felt the need to give money to support their mission.

“Their mission really feel into our wheelhouse of what the criteria was that we used for our grant making,” said Audrey Richart, executive director of the Nebraska Presbyterian Foundation. “We like organizations that have a purpose to serving the elderly and that help them to remain independent and to serve a need in the community. The Community Center with the low-income senior apartments project going in the floors above, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to collaborate with them and get them the equipment they need so that they can fill a need for the residents that could potentially live there.”

The money given to the Senior Center is actually less than what it would cost for the replacement of the equipment, which is somewhere around $55,000. However, some additional support for the replacement came from the Family Resource Center, allowing for the organization to ask for a little bit less from the Presbyterian Foundation, as a result.

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“Also, I guess I didn’t want to be greedy and ask for the entire amount,” Branting said. “We’re eligible to apply for a grant like this again in two years, so after two years, we will have a year under our belt of being able to do these types of programs.”

Still, the Senior Center now has the funding necessary to make the transition from a one-floor facility with plenty of resources and amenities into a three-story facility with housing for people who may not be able to otherwise access it. Without the funding, a project like this and a place like this would not be able to exist.

“It was an opportunity for us to be able to receive funding for something that we were going to have to pay a tremendous amount of money for,” Branting said. “It was a shot, but it landed right within their mission of helping seniors and going along with what their goals are, that kind of mimicked our goals of what we wanted to do for the seniors in our community.”

Branting is hoping that her gamble will pay off. With the additional people, a program that has provided so much, not only to the seniors of Columbus and Platte County, but to the community as a whole, will continue to grow and thrive.

“I’m extremely grateful for this,” Branting said. “It just makes things a lot smoother for the financial side of being able to continue. The way it works is, you have to cut one program to make room for another. This way, we don’t have to cut a program in order to continue to offer our nutrition program and services.”

Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.

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Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at zachary.roth@lee.net.


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