Anonymous donor provides bus for Maria Reiner Senior Center

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Featured, Senior Living

Published on June 02, 2021 with No Comments

Perform acts of kindness for those in need, especially those who are strangers

by Steve Euvino

Here’s one way to celebrate a 10th anniversary – with a new set of wheels. 

The Maria Reiner Center for seniors in Hobart finally has a vehicle to transport members. Thanks to an anonymous member and donor, the center welcomed the vehicle with a police escort on May 12. 

With hundreds of members and city officials in attendance, the vehicle made its way down Fourth Street to the former middle school. 

The mini-bus arrived just as the senior center is slowly returning to a more 

normal routine, said MRC Executive Director Aimee Schallenkamp

“This is so heart-warming to see you all here,” Schallenkamp told those assembled in preparation for the vehicle’s arrival. “Today is a special day.”

The new bus costs $63,000, which includes the vehicle and exterior design, done by Shawn Click of Hobart’s Click Design. The artwork includes “Seniors on the Go.”

Schallenkamp explained that the bus will pick up members and take them home. A nominal fee will be charged, the director said, but that fee has not been determined.

The vehicle will also be used to take members on local field trips. For longer trips, Schallenkamp said, the center uses chartered motorcoaches. 

The new vehicle is handicap-accessible and can hold two wheelchairs. Because of its size, the bus does not require a commercial drivers license, and applications are being accepted for volunteer drivers. 

Prior to COVID-19, the Reiner Center had an estimated 750 members. With the bus and increased access to the center, Schallenkamp anticipates membership will grow.

“People have been telling us how much the center means to them,” Schallenkamp said. “It’s like an extended family.”

The director said the center’s mission has been to keep “seniors’ bodies and minds as active as we can.”

Programs include social activities, fitness classes, pickleball, table and card games, and pool tables. Located in the former middle school library, the Reiner Center did offer meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays prior to the pandemic, and Schallenkamp said those meals will return.

Tom Ehhardt, president of the center’s board of directors and a longtime member, recalled 11-12 years ago when Mayor Brian Snedecor approached him about converting the 8,300-squre-foot police, courts, and community center into a senior facility.  

Then came a gift from the estate of Maria Reiner, a local woman left her estate to Hobart’s seniors. Eventually the proposed senior center project drew $240,000 in grants. 

Looking ahead to the bus’ arrival, Ehrhardt added, “You’re going to love this gift, and I hope everyone gets an opportunity to use it.”

Snedecor added his excitement and appreciation to the anonymous donor.

“This is a grand slam you’ve hit here,” the mayor said.

Among the members looking forward to the new vehicle is Alice Groszewski, a member “since day one.”

“This is the greatest gift we have,” she said. “This center is God’s gift to seniors.”

CUTLINE:

A new 14-passenger bus arrived May 12 at the Maria Reiner Center for seniors in Hobart. The vehicle is an anonymous gift from a member of the center and will be used to transport members to the center and for local field trips.

Photo by Steve Euvino

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