New center relying on lottery for senior program

The newest DeKalb County senior and community center is using a lottery system to fill 200 slots for its senior program that includes free meals and transportation.

As of mid-August, approximately 57 seniors, age 60 and older, had been selected, interviewed and have turned in the needed documentation to become members of the East Central DeKalb Community and Senior Center after paying the $125 annual membership fee.

“It’s not a fast-paced process,” said Damon Scott, director of human services for DeKalb County, of what it takes to gain membership into the senior program.

The lottery system is being used for the first time in DeKalb County as the most fair and equitable way to ensure that a cross section of those interested in membership have a chance for one of the senior program slots, according to officials.

“Human Services implemented the lottery membership process based on the capacity limitations for the congregate meal program at this location to ensure that seniors with nutrition needs had a fair process and access to a meal as well as the opportunity to participate in program activities,” according to Scott.

Four lottery application periods and drawings have been planned for the center’s senior program and three were held so far in July and August. The fourth application period is Sept. 5-8. During the first period, 406 applications were received, said Scott.

Having one’s number pulled in the lottery is only the first step toward membership, residents must undergo an in-person interview, have their age, income, and residency verified as well as provide documentation from a doctor that they can get around without assistance.

“It’s kinda slow,” said Charlotte Newton-Daniely, who manages the lottery, noting that several people who’ve completed the verification stage have yet to turn in their medical release forms, some awaiting doctor’s appointments.

Newton-Daniely said some prospective members currently attend other centers but would like a membership at the Stone Mountain facility to be closer to home.

Center officials and staff are also trying to dispel rumors about how many seniors will be allowed to use the center’s facilities. In addition to the 200 members for the senior program, membership is also open to other people of any age (including those 60 and older) as well as children, teens and other adults. The facility has a capacity of 800. All participants are required to pay the $125 annual membership fee.

Programs at the center are being developed by both parks and recreation and human services departments. The center, which opened July 24, is a 24,000-square-foot facility on Elam Road in Stone Mountain. It contains a multi-purpose hall, classrooms, dining room, prep kitchen, lounge, fitness room, aerobics/dance studio, game room and lockers. An indoor saltwater lap pool is also located in the center.

The center has been offering the public opportunities to sample classes and activities such as line dancing, how to write a memoir and arts and crafts at no cost for several weeks. Regular programming is expected to be underway Sept. 11.

Scott added that the specifics of the senior program will evolve and seniors will be surveyed. Classes and activities will be developed based on their input.

“Each center reflects the neighborhood and the area,” he said, noting that Toco Hills senior center members have an affinity for art and history and the center’s programming reflects that.
For more information on the center, go to




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