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Grant aims to bring more information, services to Pelham senior citizens

Officials at the Amherst Senior Center plan to apply for a Community Innovation Challenge Grant from the state that would cover the start-up and ongoing expenses of extending several outreach programs, as well as information, to the estimated 400 Pelham residents who are age 60 and over.

Senior Center Director Nancy Pagano said such collaboration could be a boon for Pelham residents, while at the same time stabilizing the offerings Amherst provides by having more people included and a new source of revenue.

Already, 21 percent of those who use Amherst’s senior center are from outside the town, some of which are Pelham residents.

“We’re already connected with them. A lot of their residents are already coming here,” Pagano said.

It is also logical to include Pelham because, through Highland Valley Elder Services, the Amherst Senior Center coordinates the Meals on Wheels routes for that town.

Maura Plante, the assistant director and social worker, and Helen MacMellon, an assistant social worker, are researching what services might be included and what expenses there would be, before determining the amount of money needed.

Though it may be difficult for Pelham seniors who don’t drive to access the Amherst Senior Center, Plante said Amherst could provide information specific to Pelham seniors on Amherst’s municipal website, send the Senior Spirit newsletter by mail to them, launch the Are You OK? phone calls placed to seniors at risk by emergency dispatch and use the Reverse 911 to get information to them.

Plante said the grant would also cover the costs of providing help with applications for fuel and food assistance and farmers markets coupons that give them an opportunity to get fresh produce in season.

Town Manager John Musante said this is part of a continued effort, promoted by Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration, for communities to work cooperatively.

“There is a growing list of collaborations,” Musante said.

This is already reflected in the veterans services, which are provided jointly to Amherst and Northampton, Amherst’s ambulance service going to Hadley, Leverett, Pelham and Shutesbury, and a recent agreement to provide assessing services for Pelham, Musante said.

Projects funded through the grant program this year included $78,000 for the Hampshire Regional School District, the Chesterfield and Goshen school district and Southampton, Westhampton and Williamsburg to regionalize their technology support services, $119,375 for the Franklin County Cooperative Public Health Services, which serves eight communities, including Deerfield, Granby and Plainfield, and $47,000 for the Northwestern Juvenile Fire Intervention Response, Education and Safety Partnership, nine communities, including Northampton, Easthampton, Granby and Chesterfield.

Plante said the town expects to be notified in January whether it has been accepted and, if it is, will begin putting aspects covered by the grant in place by late winter.

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