Douglas County Senior Services looks to expand, remodel

Agency also will change name in next few months
Marvel Williamson, executive director of Douglas County Senior Services

LAWRENCE — Douglas County Senior Services is many things to many people.


For some, it’s transportation to the grocery store or doctor’s office. For others, it’s a warm, home-delivered meal. And for still others, it’s a place to socialize, play Scrabble or find support and information.

Douglas County Senior Services — at 745 Vermont, a block west of Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence — is a not-for-profit organization that has been around for about 43 years.

As its name would suggest, it serves all of Douglas County, including the towns of Baldwin City, Eudora and Lecompton, as well as points in between.

The agency is funded through a variety of sources, including the city of Lawrence, city of Baldwin City and Douglas County. The rest is covered by donations and fees charged for some services.

Marvel Williamson, executive director of Douglas County Senior Services, said the organization recently completed strategic planning that will result in some noticeable changes in the next few months.

“We needed to freshen our image,” Williamson said. “We’ve realized that, so we’re going to go full force.

“We will have a new mission, a new name, a new website, a new logo and new colors. We’re also going to be remodeling our building, which means we’ll have to move in order for that to happen. It will probably take up most of 2017.”

The most significant change will come with a new name for the organization — something that will be announced in November or December “at the latest,” Williamson said.

For more than four decades, the center has established itself as a source for a wide range of services that cater to senior adults — changing and adapting to meet the needs as they arise.

At present, a major focus is on helping seniors who have limited incomes and who also are limited in their ability to get around.

“We provide services to seniors who are in the greatest need, not just financially but physically, as well, and that will continue,” Williamson said.

The center’s transportation service, among its most used programs, is maxed out at present — offering more than 50 rides on average each day.

The center has a fleet of a half-dozen cars and vans operating out of Lawrence and one van in Baldwin City. The transportation service asks $3 each way for seniors to go to a doctor’s office or grocery store or for other errands that need to be made.

Williamson said many seniors in Douglas County depend on the center for transportation. Simply put, if not for the center and its reasonable transportation rates, some seniors might opt to miss doctor’s appointments because they couldn’t afford to get to them.

RELATED: Read more retirement stories in our special section here.

“We’re at capacity,” Williamson said. “It’s definitely a growing need, because the population of seniors is growing. We wish we could do more, and maybe we will in the future.”

The center provides 150 meals a day to homebound seniors, another vital service. It doesn’t duplicate the Meals on Wheels program in Lawrence, which serves primarily people with disabilities, she said.

“We also provide tax assistance and legal aid, and we help people get enrolled in Medicare,” she said. “It’s very complicated, and people may not even know the right questions to ask, so it’s a needed service.”

The center offers an array of “fun things,” too — everything from activity classes to dances to a senior choir to math and Scrabble clubs. Caregiver support groups also are among the center’s offerings.

However, under its new mission, the center will aim to expand its services to the broader senior community in Douglas County, becoming in essence a “one-stop” source for everyone in “the second-half of their life,” Williamson said.

“The way we’re expanding, we want to do a better job of reaching the whole spectrum of seniors — not just those who are in the greatest need,” she said. “We want to become a clearinghouse for seniors as to what is out there for them in Douglas County.”

Related: See the digital copy of the 2016 Retirement Special Section here.

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What: A not-for-profit organization that serves older adults in Douglas County, including the towns of Baldwin City, Eudora and Lecompton

Address: 745 Vermont, Lawrence

Phone: (785) 842-0543; (877) 295-3277

Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday



Prime Time, a special section in Sunday, Oct. 10, 2016's issue of The Topeka Capital-Journal, explores the issues facing individuals as they approach retirement age, including downsizing and housing options, financial planning, questions to ask when transitioning into an independent living or assisted living facility and caregiving considerations.

The special section also features a directory of amenities at independent living and assisted living facilities in northeast Kansas, as well as a list of community resources that senior citizens and their families may find helpful. Additional stories and photos can be viewed at