Verde Valley Senior Center needs your attention and support
COTTONWOOD - The Verde Valley Senior Center lives in a towering building on Sixth Street where locomotives were once maintained.
Today, the same building serves thousands of meals either in-house or through Meals on Wheels, while also providing activities for the growing number of seniors who call the Verde Valley home.
As the numbers grow, the job has become more difficult, according to Director Elaine Bremner. Yavapai County has one of the highest percentages of seniors in the state.
Around lunch time, there is a flurry of activity. All the tables are set and dozens of people gather to eat, chat and enjoy a variety of live music that is offered each day; sometimes popular hits, sometimes country, classical music, dance music and oldies and even karaoke.
"We serve over 5,000 meals each month; 65,000 meals each year. About 1,000 of those meals are subsidized, but we have to find funding for the remaining 4,000 meals. We ask for $5 for the meals, but many people can't afford that," said Bremner.
Bremner explained that 74 percent of home-delivered meal recipients cannot contribute even $1. "And because of the safety standards for delivering meals at the proper holding temperature, we can't provide enough meals," she said. "We always need lots of volunteers. And we have a waiting list."
The senior meal program, Bremner explained, "First and foremost it is a nutrition program, primarily, that is what senior centers are; for seniors aged 60-plus. When they are living alone, seniors tend to not eat good meals and don't get adequate nutrition, which leads to a decline in their health. We try to fill that gap with good nutrition and exercise and companionship. That is another more important thing. By eliminating loneliness you can keep people healthier longer. Loneliness, even beyond nutrition, is the No. 1 killer of the elderly ... When the meals are delivered, it is the smile that counts. Some people are so lonely, they may not see another person until the next meal arrives."
The Center, in addition to providing meals and music, offers activities throughout the afternoon and exercise classes in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There is poker some days, Bingo, pinochle and crafts and needlework.
Yavapai County made the Verde Valley Senior Center such a shelter for its oldest citizens by contributing the community development block grant funds along with Cottonwood and other Verde Valley cities and towns. Clarkdale outfitted the kitchen with refrigerators and freezer.
But Bremner has to be the biggest fund-raiser to keep it going to continue to fill the gap between subsidies and expenses. She is hoping to fill more of that gap with donations through Arizona's Tax Credit program, as the Verde Valley Senior Citizens Association.
She said many people are now in the habit of making a tax credit to their child's school, for example, but people can split their contribution to give part to one organization and part to the Senior Center.
Since everyone is paying taxes anyway, the tax credit opportunity is the best way to benefit your local community.
And while you are thinking of the Senior Center, she said, contribute a few hours each week to help deliver meals or food preparation, help with fundraisers of activities. Call the Senior Center to see how you can help, 928-634-5450.While we may not have control over death and taxes, Arizona residents do have some control over where their taxes are spent.
The Arizona State Tax Credit program allows filers to divert tax payments that would otherwise go to the Arizona Department of Revenue and instead apply them to a qualified charity or public school of choice.
For example, if an individual owes $100 in Arizona state income taxes, that person could instead make a $100 donation to, say, Mingus Union High School Track and Field. That credit could then be directly applied to the income taxes owed, reducing the tax liability to -- in this example -- $0.
While a number of tax credit programs are available to Arizona residents, the two most popular are 1) the Qualifying Charitable Organizations Tax Credit and 2) the Public School Tax Credit. Highlights of these programs include:
100 percent of the donation can be directly deducted from Arizona state income taxes owed, to the extent allowed by law.
The donation can also be deducted from Federal income taxes owed, to the extent allowed by law.
It is not necessary to itemize deductions to qualify.
The allowable donation tax credit is up to $400 filing jointly or $200 filing individually per qualifying organization.
Donations can be made to multiple qualifying organizations. For example, a couple filing jointly could donate $400 towards a charity such as Verde Valley Senior Center's Meals and another $400 towards their children's school, even designating it to a specific program.
Deadlines for donations are Dec. 31. 2014 for qualifying charitable organizations and April 15, 2015 for public schools. These deadlines apply to the 2015 tax year.
For a specific list of organizations that qualify for a tax credit, view the Arizona Department of Revenue (AZDOR) website and click the Tax Credits link.
Additional tax credits are also available for private schools, military families and other situations. These programs are detailed on the AZDOR.gov website.
Always check with a tax professional prior to filing.
-- Tom Tracey