PUBLISHED SEPT. 8, 2016
By CARL MARIO NUDI
For Manatee County residents over 30 years old who live north of the Manatee River, a short trip south across the Green Bridge will lead them to a variety of health and mind enhancement activities.
The Renaissance on 9th, a Meals on Wheels Plus operated senior center at 1816 9th St. W., is only a mile south of the river in Bradenton.
“We provide socialization opportunities and many friendships are formed here,” said Maribeth Phillips, chief executive officer of Meals on Wheels Plus for the last four years.
Walking though the doors of the contemporary building, one would have a first impression the place is a cluster of activity.
Sue Taylor, member coordinator, sitting at the front desk would be there to have members sign in for activities at the Enrichment Center and to answer questions.
“I have a big passion for Renaissance on 9th,” said Taylor, who has worked at the center for six years.
“It’s a great place to come and meet new people,” she said. “It’s a very happy place.”
Shoppers would be browsing the shelves of the Generations Gift Shop for new fashion accessories and unique gifts or looking for that special find at the other retail store, the 2nd Generation Thrift Shop.
The thrift shop has selected items, such as jewelry, home décor accessories, kitchen supplies and housewares.
Or across the lobby there would be guests enjoying one of the specialty sandwiches or a nice salad at the 9th Street Bistro.
The casual atmosphere of the restaurant has the feeling of a Paris sidewalk café.
The shops and the bistro are open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and the proceeds benefit the programs Meals on Wheels PLUS and The Food Bank of Manatee.
“Many other counties run a senior program through government agencies,” Phillips said, “but we have a different kind of concept.
“When we opened, it was designed to include opportunities to earn income,” she said. “The public comes to eat and shop, helping to support our programs.”
Meals on Wheels Plus has offered services to the elderly of Manatee County since 1972, initially delivering hot and nutritious meals.
Through the years the organization grew and started to expand its mission, thus adding “Plus” to its name.
Not only does it deliver daily meals to homebound residents, Meals on Wheels Plus operates the Renaissance on 9th center, the Food Bank of Manatee, the Day Break Adult Day Center, Friendship Dining and Senior Wheels programs.
At the Renaissance on 9th facility, the Enrichment Center has become a popular institution.
“We opened the Enrichment Center in 2008,” Phillips said. “We like to call it a community center for active adults over 50.”
And active it is.
Walking down the halls of the sprawling building one would find groups of line dancers in the Turner Ballroom, quiet practitioners of yoga meditation in another room, inquisitive readers in the library, or energetic members running on a treadmill in the gym.
There is a calendar full of other activities offered at the Enrichment Center throughout the year.
There are computer lessons, Tai Chi sessions, weekly afternoon dances with a live band, nutrition workshops, arts and craft classes, language courses and more.
A popular weekly event is the Lunch Club, held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., on Mondays.
Along with a meal prepared in the on-site kitchen, participants would hear a featured guest speaker give a presentation on various topics, such as travel, entertainment, Medicare, or finances.
Upcoming speakers include, Glenn Barich, of the Bank of England, giving a presentation on reverse mortgages on Sept. 12; Debbie Schultz, with Walk Wise Florida, talking about bicycle and pedestrian safety on Sept. 19; and Brenda Bates from Surrey Place speaking on the importance of rehabilitation on Sept. 26.
Meals on Wheels Plus also offers its Lunch Club program at an east county location from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Tuesday, at the Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, 8175 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.
The lunch and speaker presentation costs $9. Reservations are not required, but recommended.
Although the Enrichment Center programs are available to anyone over 50, becoming a member has its advantages.
Members receive discounts on all programs and events, and some activities are open only to members.
Memberships are $55 for an individual, and $85 for a couple annually, or $15 a month.
The use of the Fitness Center is an additional $10 a month for members, and $15 a month for nonmembers.
“Our goal is to offer educational, recreational, and social activities to make sure there is no excuse not to get off the couch,” said Jackie Godlewski, activity director for the Enrichment Center for about 1½ years.
“So come and check us out and bring a neighbor,” Godlewski said.
The Enrichment Center also partners with the Senior Advantage Program of Manatee Memorial Hospital and is a SilverSneakers facility.
For residents in Manatee County needing transportation to and from the Enrichment Center, there is the Meals on Wheels PLUS Transportation Services.
Sheri Aiello, vice president of marketing and Community relations for Meals on Wheels Plus said the service also provides transportation to medical appointments, social recreational activities, beauty/barber shop visits, grocery shopping and more.
“It’s a member-based transportation service for adults over 50,” Aiello wrote in an email about the service. “They must be Independently mobile, which includes using canes or collapsible walkers and wheelchairs, and a Manatee County resident.
To sign-up for the program call Transportation Services at 941-747-RIDE (7433) to receive a complete packet.
A Meals on Wheels Plus staff member will verify qualification and send an official welcome letter.
There is an annual membership fee for Transportation Services and pick up and per-mile charges are applied to each trip.
Annual membership is $35, there is a $10 round-trip pick-up charge, and a $1.50 per-mile transit fee.
The community-at-large has benefited from facilities at Renaissance on 9th with the availability of another rental venue for events such as weddings, banquets and meetings.
The Turner Ballroom, a tastefully appointed hall with a stage, can seat up to 350 dining guests.
And with a full-service kitchen, managed by Executive Chef David Meador, the ballroom provides a complete package for any organization.
All of the activities found at Renaissance on 9th have created an atmosphere of community involvement and sharing.
“We are membership based,” said CEO Phillips, “but we also provide opportunities for volunteers.”
Volunteers are needed as drivers to deliver hot meals and forother programs.
“This helps keep our members active,” she said.
For more information about programs at the Renaissance on 9th, call 941-749-0100 or visit the website at renaissanceon9th.org.