T here are 15 senior centers located throughout York County. Ten of them are fully funded by the York County Area Agency on Aging; five are not.
The Windy Hill Senior Center in Spring Grove is one of the unfunded, except for the money it gets from the county for its nutrition (meals) program for seniors.
Windy Hill lost its county funding on July 1, 2006, Tammy Miller, executive director, said, and has never gotten it back despite having 800 members, a growth in attendance of 185 percent and a 300 percent increase in the number of meals served.
So when the board of directors sits down the beginning of each year to plan its $102,000 annual budget, it knows it's only going to get about $20,000 from the agency on aging, all of which is directed to its meals program.
That means it has to raise $82,000 on its own just to keep the doors open.
It's a tall order.
But they do it.
They do it because the membership -- all well-seasoned seniors -- works hard to make it happen. There aren't many slackers in this bunch.
"We've been self-sufficient for about five years," Miller said. "We raise all that money on our own."
In fact, she said, the Windy Hill seniors have seven different fund-raisers "going on all at once."
All at one time? I asked. "Like, right now," she said.
There's a raffle. There's an apple dumpling sale. There's the private job they're doing for the York Fair, putting together 30,000 packets of pumpkin seeds that will be sent out to school-age children. There's the lottery project. There's the spring quilt raffle.
And there's the fund-raising appeal letter the Windy Hill seniors send out to 8,300 York County residents, all over the age of 50, who live within six miles of the senior center.
Plus, there's the grocery bingo event being held this Sunday, April 22 -- doors open at noon, games start at 2 p.m. -- at the Sacred Heart Parish Center on Sprenkle Road, in Spring Grove.
"It's a big deal for us," Miller said. "And we haven't sold as many tickets as we've sold in the past. So we're a little concerned." About 70 tickets have been sold, but Windy Hill was hoping to sell at least 200. "We have a ways to go for sure."
Hey, everyone needs groceries, she said, "which is why we decided to do a grocery bingo this year, rather than baskets or Vera Bradley pocketbooks."
Miller said York County merchants -- Kennie's Market, Giant and Wal-Mart, for example -- have contributed more than $800 worth of gift cards and merchandise to be given away to bingo winners.
There also will be door prizes, she said, a loser's game and a 50/50 drawing to sweeten the pot.
And there will be all kinds of food available for purchase.
Tickets will be sold $12 in advance, or $15 at the door.
"We're not the largest senior center in York County," Miller said, "but we're in the top one-third. And we're the largest that doesn't get any county funding. In fact, we're larger than two-thirds of the senior centers in York County, and most of them are fully funded by the county. In fact, many of them are getting more county funding than ever."
So the message has been sent: If Windy Hill wants to stay open, it has to provide for itself.
"That's why these fund-raisers are more important to us than they might be to someone else," she said. "For us, it's a matter of survival. We can't just sit around and play cards or watch TV all the time. We're fighting for our existence."
It doesn't get any clearer than that.
So if you have nothing else to do Sunday afternoon, if you enjoy bingo -- or even if you don't -- if you're looking for a good time and a chance to socialize with some of your friends and neighbors, you might want to give grocery bingo a try.
Be there or be square.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: email@example.com.