By Jeanie Hankins
If all goes as planned, by autumn Wickenburg will be home to a new senior center. Funded largely by the Wellik Foundation, the building will be named the George and Vi Wellik Wickenburg Community Services Center.
Last week, the Wellik Foundation released $850,000 to support renovation of the Gatehouse building on W. Wickenburg Way and Yavapai Street. The 12,500 sq. ft. center will house the CAP office, Wise Owl Senior Center, home delivery meals, food bank, mobile food pantry, and the Freedom Express senior transportation program under one roof. This centralized location for senior services will significantly increase WCSC and the Foundation for Senior Living’s ability to provide services to Wickenburg’s rapidly growing senior population, according to FSL Program Director Charlie Petersen.
All of the services are now provided from a much smaller location on N. Washington Street.
Four years ago, the Wellik Foundation granted Wickenburg Community Services Corporation (WCSC) $650,000 to purchase the building. Since then, WCSC has been raising money for renovations. Petersen said the fundraising has been successful, but as time goes on the estimated constructions costs continue to increase. With $1.1 million now raised, WCSC is ready to begin construction as it works to reach the $2.6 million price tag. Petersen said donations from organizations and individuals in the community have been helpful, and he is optimistic that pending grant applications will assist in reaching the goal.
Bayley Construction has signed on as the general contractor and will oversee all the work including the paving of the parking lot on the 175-day project. Demolition is underway now inside the building which formerly housed about 30 offices. When finished, the building will include a 140-seat multipurpose dining hall with stage, a large kitchen, billiard room, computer room, conference/classroom, reception area, social center, food bank, administration offices, restrooms and an outdoor terrace.
“I foresee that with this new building, we will see a significantly higher percentage of the senior population . I can see our meal service increasing by a third,” Petersen predicted. He also envisions a food bank designed like a grocery store where people can select the foods they like to eat.
From a much smaller location the Wise Owl Senior Center and associated programs last year served approximately 11,500 in the dining room, provided close to 12,000 meals and wellness checks to senior in their homes in Wickenburg and surrounding area, offered crisis assistance to vulnerable citizens and seniors, and distributed approximately 159,000 lbs. of food through St. Mary’s Food Bank, Mobile Food Pantry and Senior Food Box Program. Meanwhile, Freedom Express has provided 31,800 rides to seniors since January 2015. All of this is done with a staff of five full-time and six part-time employees as well as volunteers, Petersen said.
“WCSC has been a continuous source of support for our community for over 40 years and the Wellik Foundation is proud to support their ability to make a positive difference for the future of Wickenburg,” said Eileen McGuire, Wellik Foundation Board chair. “The center is a fitting tribute to the commitment to community shared by our founder Viola Wellik and her husband George.”
WCSC is a volunteer-led nonprofit organization originally formed in 1975 to assist the Community Action Partnership (CAP) to provide services to community members.
A supporting organization of the Arizona Community Foundation, the Wellik Foundation was established in 1998 by Viola Wellik, who wanted to preserve the unique quality of life in the Wickenburg area. Her bequest made upon her passing in 2004 resulted in a significant philanthropic endowment to ensure the community has a continuous source of funding to help address current and emerging community needs.
Established in 1978, the Arizona Community Foundation is a statewide family of charitable funds supported by thousands of Arizonans. With five regional offices serving communities across Arizona, ACF is among the top 25 community foundations in the nation with more than $938 million in trust and endowment assets, and is certified under the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations. Since inception, ACF and its affiliates have awarded more than $719 million in grants, scholarships, and loans to nonprofit organizations, schools, and government agencies. More information is available at azfoundation.org.