By Susan Tebben
Without the help of a nonprofit group called Austintown Generational Enrichment, the township’s senior citizens might never have had the possibility to dance.
But with the acronym AGE, the 501(c)(3) fundraising group aims to help people of every age have places to spend their free time and meet people in the community.
“They [the township] had to have a way to raise funds for the senior center and these sorts of projects that they couldn’t give money to,” said Mark Cole, chairman of AGE. “We help the senior center look for grants and ways to brand Austintown.”
AGE started in 2010, and trustees and community members started slow, attempting to garner support for an Austintown Senior Center, said Trustee Lisa Oles, who assisted in the group’s formation.
Now that the senior center is up and running and growing steadily, center director Jim Henshaw said AGE is adding to its list of projects. Finding funding for a mobile dance floor has been at the top of the list, and already has netted a $3,000 grant from the Youngstown Foundation, Cole said. An additional $500 is needed to get the floor.
As for projects outside the center, the group is taking on a communitywide project in trying to bring back the Austintown July 4 fireworks display, something that will take $15,000. Trustee Jim Davis said the group had raised $9,000 so far.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to build Austintown,” Cole said. “We’re hoping to have youth programs this summer, and AGE could even bring brand-new businesses by encouraging people that don’t think they can have their own business and taking them through the process.”
With the announcement of a YMCA facility to be built in Austintown, AGE sees the opportunity to have the multigenerational center that always had been a goal when the group was created.
“The senior center gives them purpose in their lives again, and we want to hit all generations,” said Trustee Rick Stauffer. “Now we can start, maybe, doing [programs] for teens and youth.”
Cole is preparing Awesome Austintown for October to coincide with the opening of the new schools in the Austintown Local School District. The event will showcase students and the community through various programs, including a car show and a 5K run, bringing people from outside the community into Austintown, Cole said.
But the senior center still is at the forefront of thought. Cole said AGE hopes to bring in more exercise classes and dance classes, along with computer classes and other events for seniors.