Skyway Senior Center programs thrive while funding dives

Share this:
March 7, 2005 // UPDATED 1:52 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Jeremy Stratton
Jeremy Stratton

The Skyway Senior Center turned 3 this winter. The activity center, at 950 Nicollet Mall, Suite 290 (in the skyway, of course), is the only one for seniors in Downtown, according to Center Director Michelle Lodahl.

With more than 3,000 mailing list names, the center seems to be popular with seniors from Downtown and elsewhere. On an average day, Lodahl said that 65-70 visitors older than 55 take advantage of its many programs, or simply sit and chat in the bright, comfy space.

The nonprofit is funded by grants from foundations, corporations and individuals, including some of its senior patrons, who do the vast majority of the volunteer work at the center.

Lodahl said Ryan Companies, which manages the Target/Retek building that the center calls home,has been "very kind" in covering the center's lease for its first five years.

In the center's first year, Target Corp. contributed "a substantial amount ... a big chunk that got us off the ground," Lodahl said.

However, that startup contribution went away, and the center now needs additional contributors to help fund operations and specific programming, said Lodahl.

Although she did not share the center's total budget for 2005, Lodahl said the $75,000 shortfall is more than half of its annual budget.

The center offers many health-related programs, including yoga, tai chi, and "weight and stretch" routines, as well as foot care sessions that straddle the fence between pampering and podiatry, nutrition and homeopathy.

Most classes are free; others require a fee, but scholarships are often offered to seniors who cannot cover the cost, according to Lodahl.

An instructor from Schmitt Music gives seniors lessons on an on-site organ.

Volunteer lawyer Sharon Kirts conducts a quarterly "elder law series" that starts this month, informing seniors about assets and nursing home costs, wills and estate planning, and "what to do if someone dies," Lodahl said.

Art and craft activities include painting with pastels, taught by Richfield artist Ron Wilson, and the "bundles of love club," which meets monthly to sew blankets for premature babies at local hospitals.

Seniors watch movies ranging from new releases to older classics; "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was featured recently, and "Spiderman" is on the upcoming calendar, said Lodahl.

Seniors can even complete their state-required "defensive driving refresher" with a volunteer instructor.

The center does not have memberships, and its service to seniors is made possible in large part through time and money donated by individuals and organizations.

Ironically, the center's popularity accounts for some the strain on its budget; the ever-growing newsletter is a large expense, according to Lodahl, even though the Kingfield Neighborhood Association in Southwest Minneapolis underwrites half of the cost through its Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) funds.

"The need is still great to support the center's mission to provide a safe, friendly and comfortable and place for seniors to gather and participate in the many services and programs the center has to offer," wrote Lodahl in the center's newsletter. The center is seeking agencies, especially those that have a history funding senior programs, to provide funding, and it is working with a grant writer from the City of Minneapolis to pursue such funding.

Funders can contact Lodahl at 370-3869.