On April 12, the Estuary Council of Seniors, Inc., appointed Stan Mingione, the Estuary Center’s controller, to the new post of executive director. He couldn’t be happier.
“It’s an exciting time to be here,” says Stan. “You wear a lot of hats, you work a lot of hours, but working for a non-profit, you do what has to get done.”
When the Estuary’s prior executive director resigned, Stan stepped in to serve as interim executive director, and the board liked what it saw.
“We didn’t do a search, we hired from within—we chose Stan,” says ECSI Board Chairman Gerri Lewis.
Lewis recalled that a few years ago, Estuary Center members actually petitioned the ECSI Board to make Stan the executive director at that time.
“They went around at lunch getting signatures on a petition to make him director,” says Lewis. “Now, the members are thrilled. The board and I are thrilled, because Stan is the man who gets things done.”
As the controller at ECSI for the past 12 years, Stan has been involved in the financial aspects of several major changes at the center, including the renovation and addition project that added space and facilities and the addition of a fitness center not long after that.
ECSI is one of only nine senior meal providers in the State of Connecticut. In 2005, ECSI prepared close to 100,000 meals a year—until the grant funds under Title III to make breakfasts ran out. In 2017, even offering just one meal a day, ECSI made between 75,000 to 80,000 meals per year served at locations like the Estuary Senior Center in Old Saybrook and meals delivered by Meals on Wheels program volunteers.
“Because we get federal money, we cannot ask for payment for meals, but we do ask for a $3 donation. Each day, we deliver over 100 home-bound meals,” says Stan. “All our drivers are volunteers.”
ECSI and the programs of the Estuary Center serve the nine towns of the Estuary Region: Killingworth, Chester, Clinton, Deep River, Essex, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook, and Westbrook.
“We are lucky. There are nine meal providers in the state. We are the only one that has not cut days of service or that does not have a waiting list. One of the things I love about this organization and its volunteers is that we anticipate budget and [public] grant cuts and plan for them in advance by seeking more private grants and doing more fundraising. And we get steady income from the Thrift Shop,” says Stan. “A lot of other meal providers rely on only the federal nutrition grants.”
ECSI delivers meals to the home-bound five days a week throughout the nine-town Estuary service area. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of home-bound seniors needing meal deliveries. With hospitals now penalized when a patient is re-admitted soon after release, hospital social workers and local visiting nurse associations (VNAs) make sure that upon release, seniors are signed up to get home-bound meals immediately. For some, it is a temporary need. For others, it’s more long-term.
“People are also living longer now, too, so Meals on Wheels deliveries are really a lifeline,” Stan says. “It’s a wellness check and the individual who delivers the meal may be the home-bound senior’s only contact that day.”
At the same time, for active seniors, there are many other Estuary Center programs that provide them with enrichment and fitness options.
“One thing I am really proud of is our fitness center. I got a grant from AT&T for fitness equipment. So we bought a full line of Nautilus equipment, a treadmill, an elliptical machine, two step machines, and two recumbent bikes. And we have a fitness trainer who leads classes like Boot Camp and Balance. The first year, we did $3,000 in gym memberships. Last year, we did $10,000 and this year, half-way through the year, we’re already at $8,000. We also no participate in the Silver Sneakers Program.”
When Stan, a Guilford resident, started at ECSI in 2005, the Thrift Shop was in a smaller space and had annual revenue of $65,000. After the center’s renovation project, which also doubled the store’s retail space, its annual revenue increased; this past year, the store logged $135,000 in annual revenue. Buying and installing a new point-of-sale system was one key element of this success.
“Being able to accept credit cards bumped up our revenue,” says Stan.
The Thrift Shop’s annual revenue is a key building block in support of the operations of the Estuary Center, its programs, and the meals for the home-bound it makes every day.
“A single day’s revenue from the Thrift Shop could pay a monthly utility bill, for example,” says Stan.
To bring in other revenue to support ECSI operations, the Estuary Center building is also rented out for private events.
“The center’s location with the views of the marsh and North Cove is hard to beat,” says Stan. “People also rent out our building at night [for] AAA Teen Driving classes, Weight Watchers groups, and for a real estate training course. We do about $45,000 a year in rental income. The rental income helps defray the costs of out other programs.”
To help support grant applications that ECSI prepares, the center installed a “My Senior Center” system. Each senior gets a magnetic tag. When they enter the Estuary Center facility, they stop at the kiosk, swipe their card, and then using a touch screen the users selects the activity they will participate in that day.
“From this system, we get statistical reports of how many people used our facility and the activities they’ve come here to enjoy whether it is a lunch, a painting or exercise class, or the gym,” says Stan. “We also use this information to show usage by each town’s residents in support of our annual request to towns for a financial contribution.”
Membership in the Estuary Center gym is $90 for six months and $150 for a year.
Speaking of why working out at the Estuary Center appeals to many, he says, “People like to work out with people their own age.
“I love the seniors. I love being able to have a hand in making sure they have adequate services,” says Stan. “We can see people smile, thanking us, it’s so rewarding to be part of this.”