New director joins Senior Center

Lisa Erquiaga is the new director of the Churchill County Senior Center.

Lisa Erquiaga is the new director of the Churchill County Senior Center.

The Churchill County Senior Center, soon to be the William N. Pennington Life Center, has a new director whose already been serving Northing Nevada for the last 20 years.

Executive Director Lisa Erquiaga has brought with her an extensive background in human services, specifically independent living and disability advocacy with nonprofits. She also has a bachelor of arts in Gerontology.

“Right now,” Erquiaga said, “my main focus is just getting my feet wet and familiar with policy, how they do things here and how to run forward. Then the biggest thing is going to be moving … It’s a great team with a lot of support. I absolutely adore the seniors; everyone has been so wonderful, so welcoming. I’m so happy to be here.”

Erquiaga has been a Nevada resident since 1967 and attended school in Fallon from first grade at Oats Park to graduation from Churchill County High School. She’s married and has three children and two granddaughters. She enjoys gardening, traveling and camping and loves working with seniors.

“The best part of the day is when it’s time to go and call the tables for lunch,” Erquiaga said. “And it’s open to everybody. We have lots of comments that people love coming out here for a meal … We have some great people that come every day to eat lunch. The food’s really good. And it’s just a $6 suggested donation.”

The new center’s construction site will be next to the Churchill County Museum, and a ground-breaking ceremony was conducted in March. It will be twice the size of the current center. The project was made possible with a major grant from the Pennington Foundation out of Reno, as well as with aid from the city and county.

“I think Lisa is very well-qualified,” said senior board chairman Bus Scharmann, who wasn’t on the selection committee but was very pleased with the result.

“She has a lot of experience with seniors, and we’re excited about what she can bring to the table here … We’re really pleased about her grantsmanship, being able to bring that experience writing grants (for funding) is very helpful when moving into a new center, dealing with budget increases, and other things … We aim to sustain our operations with grant money as well.”

Erquiaga said about one in seven, or 14.5 percent, of the population is an older American. Scharmann noted the center’s demand as well. For example, the center’s Meals on Wheels program nearly has a waiting list and serves 200 recipients per day. Plus, the center’s congregate lunch room serves 82-100 people daily.

“We’re serving a lot of folks,” Scharmann said, “And those are only the meals, not to mention the exercise groups and other things.”

The center’s offerings include nutrition programs such as the Meals on Wheels, housekeeping, local transportation, rental and utility assistance and home modifications, as well as leisure activities such as physical fitness, general recreation and volunteer opportunities. They also work with food stamp and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Accepted insurance and discount programs provide additional financial support including prescription assistance.

“For many seniors,” said senior Ginny Dugan, “the Churchill County Senior Center is not just a place to have a delicious and nutritious meal. It’s also a source of social interaction and friendship among others just like us. I found my fellow seniors to generally be a happy and positive-thinking group of people with whom I’ve shared laughter and good times, and formed wonderful relationships.”

The center is for ages 60 and above and has no income limits. Off-site clients and residents include those with health conditions, disabilities, impairments and injuries.

“I am very passionate about working with people of all ages,” Erquiaga said, “especially seniors. I have a high regard for diversity, independence and empowerment … While there’s much work to be done in the current location on a daily basis, I look ahead to the very near future transition.”

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