County senior centers still operating

Linda Murillo, pictured left, poses with Donny Woodward and Mary Helen Griego at the Socorro Senior Center. 

The Socorro County Senior Center on Ake Avenue in Socorro, rife with comfortable leather chairs, pool tables and all the amenities is currently vacant, save for a handful of loyal employees.

The center formerly offered services to local seniors such as congregate meals, home delivered meals, transportation, assisted transportation, homemaker services, chore services and senior recreation opportunities.

It can no longer provide all of those services.

That center, designed for the senior citizens in this county has now become a representation of how America treats its elderly.

But Linda Murillo, Socorro County Senior Center Director and her staff are doing all they can to make sure the senior population in the county are getting what they need.

Murillo runs three centers in Socorro County. One in Socorro, one in Magdalena and one in Veguita.

Murillo, an El Paso native has been the director for close to four years, and the challenges are ever present.

“You can't be at three places all at once, so I depend on my site managers. I've got a good crew and they're very loyal,” she said. “We're constantly on the phone. We're constantly texting and emailing back and forth. I try to be there as much as I can, but we're such a small skeleton crew.”

That skeleton has little to do with COVID, and more to do with funding.

“The city gives us so much a year and then the county picks up the bulk of what it needs to run the center,” Murillo said. “We have to kind of see what the budget looks like.”

Murillo, who is based out of Socorro said she doesn't always have time to make it to all three centers, but she is trying her best.

Her crew, now down to 11 members makes taking care of the county's senior citizens a bit easier, but the task is a challenging one on a daily basis. And as director, Murillo has a long list of responsibilities.

“You have to be part of the crew because you don't always have enough people to do what needs to be done. Then trying balance being the director, you're there for all three centers,” she said. “As director it's you're responsibility to look for funding for all three of them. There are training programs, and are we following the mandate; county, state and federal mandates. It's a very difficult challenge.

“You have to make sure that you're following the rules, the policy and procedures to make sure that they can't come back and take your grant award away.”

As of now, the senior center cannot offer the aforementioned services in regard to transportation and chore services. But the center is still taking upon the daily task of delivering meals to seniors once per day.

“Chore services were taken off the table two years ago because nobody wanted to work those positions,” Murillo said. “We're going to use those positions to feed more seniors because the demand is larger. Because we're choosing to limit some of our services, we're able to feed more people.”

As with many small programs the issue with the senior centers is money, but seniors in Socorro County still need more from family and friends.

“So we would rather just feed people. We just need to make sure we feed people because when COVID hit, we really reached out to our community and we got to them on Facebook,” Murillo said. “If anybody knew of a senior that needed a meal to let us know. The numbers kind of skyrocketed.”

Despite the difficult state of all three Socorro County Senior Centers Murillo said the time spent is worth it, but the program still needs help.

“Our seniors are very worth it. For a lot of them, this is the only meal they're getting per day. I don't understand that,” she said. “I wish government would do a better job in taking care of seniors. We're just the band-aid. If anything were to happen to us, there is no plan B. Nowhere else in Socorro are they going to get a hot meal, or a home-delivered meal. We have a suggested donation, $2.50. The majority tries to donate. We appreciate when they do donate. But we're not going to deny anybody a meal.”