As students prepare to head back to school, the Canal Winchester Senior Citizens Club is preparing to head back to work on its college scholarship program, part of the club's commitment to community and education.
The Senior Citizens Club began in 1977, according to current Vice President Bill Citro, with a focus on expanding educational opportunities, not just for senior citizens, but for the community at large.
"We've served the senior citizens very well over the years, but we found a void where we weren't serving the youth of the community as well as we could, so that's where the idea for the two $500 scholarships came from," Citro said.
He said the club plans to once again work with Canal Winchester High School guidance counselor Joe Ardnt to distribute the scholarship applications and provide an initial review of the applicants to be sure they meet the criteria.
The scholarship program gives the club a chance to "reach out to all the students," he said.
At the end of this past school year, the club awarded its first scholarships to graduating seniors Sarah Collins and Cody Cowgill. The presentations were made at the club's monthly catered luncheon, which is also part of Canal Winchester Human Services programming and serves as a fundraiser for the Community Food Pantry.
"The applications are all anonymous and included a 500-word essay about future goals and why the student was deserving (of a scholarship)," Citro said. "Our seven board members read them and took a vote; it was a tough job deciding."
He said the organization's board was very pleased to have had 16 qualified applicants for the scholarships last year, and hopes to see a similar turnout in coming years as a way of interacting with more local students.
For several years, the club has worked with Canal Winchester Human Services and the high school varsity football squad on the Seniors to Seniors program, where about 100 players and coaches spend a day doing exterior housework at the senior citizens' homes and then, ahead of the season opener, the club cooks them all dinner at the Frances Steube Community Center.
"The Seniors to Seniors program has been very well-received," Citro said. "Those boys sure can eat!"
The club hosts Tuesday luncheons, with help from the community center staff. The second Tuesday of each month is reserved for a fancier, catered lunch, Citro said. The cost of the regular luncheons begins at $3 per person, or an equivalent amount of food donations to the pantry; the catered luncheon varies in price or donation amount.
"We've collected upward of 3,000 food items a year for Human Services' Community Food Pantry," Citro said.
He added that the club members benefit greatly from programs such as Senior Transport and some from the choice pantry programs, so they take on as many tasks as they are able to for Human Services as a way to "try and pay them back with our man-hours."
The senior club posts a registration sheet for its future events at the community center, 22 S. Trine St. Many of the programs are free, although the club charges an annual membership fee of $10 per person or $15 per couple.
"Our senior citizens' commitment is to the community and is ongoing throughout the year," Citro said. "We'll continue to search for new and better ways to fulfill that commitment. I suggest that all seniors come and join and you'll have a great time."