Elderday Center to re-open, with fresh leadership

  • An Elderday Center client colors while talking to an activity aide. The center closed in May, but efforts are underway to resume operations next month.

      An Elderday Center client colors while talking to an activity aide. The center closed in May, but efforts are underway to resume operations next month. Rick West | Staff Photographer, 2015

  • The Elderday Center, housed in the Bethany Ministry Center in Batavia, closed in May but now plans to reopen.

      The Elderday Center, housed in the Bethany Ministry Center in Batavia, closed in May but now plans to reopen. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

  • Michael Cobb, executive director of Elderday Center.

    Michael Cobb, executive director of Elderday Center.

 
 
Updated 7/16/2019 5:59 AM

The Elderday Center in Batavia, a care program for people with memory impairment, is going to reopen in a few weeks under new leadership.

The center, which closed unexpectedly at the end of May, will have a "soft" reopening on Aug. 2 and a grand reopening in September, according to its new executive director, Michael Cobb.

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"It is essential, we feel, to let the public know we are just suspended, we did not close our doors all the way," Cobb said Thursday.

"We can't let something of this history and quality slide," said Larry Jones, a certified business mentor from Fox Valley SCORE, a nonprofit organization of retired business executives who advise businesses and nonprofits.

The center had operated for 29 years, starting in St. Charles and then Geneva before moving into the Bethany Ministry Center in 2003.

It helped people who had memory problems due to Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, strokes and other conditions.

The clients did arts and crafts, exercised, participated in pet and music therapy, reminisced and took field trips. The activities were designed to slow cognitive decline, maintain strength and flexibility, combat depression and extend the time participants could remain in their homes. They paid $17 an hour.

Enrollment had declined to about a dozen clients, although the facility has room for 35.

The current board asked SCORE for help in April.

Cobb said there were several factors that led to the closing. The center was not as successful as it once had been in obtaining grant money, its fundraising events had become less successful, and the number of clients had declined.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Expenses also had increased and the state stopped reimbursing it for services for low-income clients who were enrolled through the state's Community Care Program. (The state would pay about half the cost, and the center would pick up the rest.)

Jones presented a recovery plan, but it involves a lot of work and the board members couldn't commit to the time needed, he said. The center closed May 30.

Jones, of Sugar Grove, brought in Cobb, of North Aurora. Cobb's resume includes a stint as executive director of the Hesed House shelter in Aurora and of Concerned Christian Men of Chicago, a mentoring program for boys. He also was a vice president of the Glenwood School for Boys and does consulting work for nonprofits.

Next week, the current five-member board will resign, and be replaced by a larger board of up to 15 members, Jones said. That board will oversee operations.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There also will be an advisory board, with people who have expertise on senior-citizen issues, and a community board, Jones said.

Cobb intends to increase marketing and community awareness of the center. When news of its closing broke in May, many commenters on social media said they were not aware the center existed.

He envisions hosting business-after-hours events for Batavia Chamber of Commerce members, and inviting school music and theater groups to perform for clients.

"We need to up our game when it comes to fundraising," Cobb said. The annual -- and very visible -- mum sale on its lawn will take place in September and he believes the center should resume having a gala.

The center also will step up efforts to let people in nearby towns know they are welcome -- it has served clients from as far away as Elgin. "We're really the only player in the area," Cobb said.

The center will take things slowly: It will offer half-day programs twice a week in August, then three days a week in September. So far, 10 clients have indicated they will come back.

"It feels good being a part of this. This was vital. This is vital that the community takes care of its seniors," Jones said.

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