The Gulfport Multipurpose Senior Center Foundation canceled and postponed several events in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID, however new president Ron Coyne says he is determined to engage the community and grow involvement.
Coyne served on the Senior Center Foundation board for two and a half years before deciding to take up the presidential position for 2021.
“We survive because of donations and events we put on for the public based on nominal fees,” Coyne said of the foundation, a nonprofit that exists solely to raise money for and support Gulfport’s Senior Center. “Last year and this year are becoming real problems; people are nervous about going into open air facilities. Numbers are diminishing because of that – can’t blame them.”
Members who normally would attend these events are staying home for safety, or do not have the financial means to attend, Coyne said.
It hasn’t been all negative. To combat the financial distress and keep the community involved, the board is busy hosting virtual meetings and virtual events, such as bingo, trivia and chef lessons.
“What I want to do this year as president is challenge our board members to think out of the box,” Coyne said. “Let’s not look at last year and do the same thing. Because we know how that works and we know how that doesn’t work.”
The Senior Center is able to operate because of the city and the Senior Center Foundation. Founded in 2003, the foundation raises money for the Center through events and donations, and the board is 100 percent volunteer-based.
In 2020 the foundation donated exercise equipment to the Center, but is struggling to keep afloat this year.
“I wouldn’t look at it as a handicap, but it’s something we have to consider,” Coyne told the Gabber.
One of Coyne’s main interests is keeping the food pantry stocked, especially with COVID placing a financial strain on the community. The food pantry, located in the Senior Center, provides food to seniors in need.
“The community in Gulfport really came to bat,” past Senior Center Foundation President Jennifer Terrana said of donations for the food pantry. “The response was absolutely phenomenal.”
The Gulfport Lions Club collects money to keep up food pantry supplies, but the Center also accepts donations. Coyne hopes this will continue to be a priority for the community. People can also donate money to the foundation directly at gulfportseniorfoundation.org/support-us.
“In our mind, the Senior Center is a shining light for the city,” Coyne said.