CHEER Inc., a nonprofit agency that caters to the needs of senior citizens in Sussex County, is celebrating its 50th anniversary during 2021. Several special events and commemorative activities are planned throughout the year to celebrate the milestone.
The Rev. Dr. Milton Keene, a Methodist minister and administrator of the Methodist Manor House in Seaford, established CHEER on July 23, 1971. Fifty years later, this in-home health service continues to meet its mission to promote and maintain the highest quality of life and independence by developing and providing services that meet the continuing needs of mature adults 50 and over.
A couple years after beginning, CHEER expanded to include a meal program. With a paid staff of four, its first Christmas dinner was prepared in a leased kitchen behind the Diamond Motel on Route 13 in Laurel, from which they sent out 800 holiday meals. Meal preparation moved to the Adams State Service Center in 1977 when a kitchen was added for CHEER to handle its growing meal service.
Recently, construction was begun to expand the kitchen at the CHEER Community Center on Sand Hill Road east of Georgetown to meet the growing need for meal services in Sussex County. The new 6,376-square-foot, $1.4 million kitchen is scheduled to open in fall 2021 and will be able to produce 2,625 meals per day.
In March 1974, the Georgetown CHEER Center began holding meetings in the basement of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Pine Street, and met there until moving to the Adams State Service Center.
The Milton CHEER Center began in Slaughter Neck Church in 1974, where it remained for several years until moving to the old Betts Feed Store on Reynolds Road. In 2011, CHEER opened its Milton Healthy Lifestyle Center on Broadkill Road in a new 6,000-square-foot center.
The Greenwood center also began in 1974, in the basement of Greenwood United Methodist Church. In 1995, it moved to the old Lettuce Bowl restaurant on Route 13. In 2007, a new 5,300-square-foot building was dedicated to CHEER seniors; it houses a large multipurpose room, full kitchen, offices, and a small conference room.
In the late 1970s, CHEER began sharing the Edward W. Pyle Center building in Roxana, which also houses state health offices and a child care center. The Lewes CHEER Center was originally located in the annex of Huling Cove on Savannah Road. In 2002, it moved to a 3,600-square-foot center on Woods Edge Drive in the Harbour Town apartment complex and was renamed Harbour Lights center.
The Ocean View center opened in 1992 at the Church of Christ. In a few months, it outgrew the facility and moved into town hall where it remained for five years. The next move was to the old Kwik Chek Restaurant in a renovated building loaned to CHEER by state Rep. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, now a senator. The group met there from 1998 to 2005. After a successful capital campaign, a new senior center was built in Ocean View next to a 55-and-over community and named the Coastal Leisure Activity Center.
In 2005, grand opening ceremonies were held for the Long Neck Center in the Shoppes at Long Neck on Pot-Nets Road after many years occupying the Methodist Church in Oak Orchard.
In 1983, the Delaware Transportation Authority selected CHEER to be the first recipient of buses to be purchased under a newly created federal program for nonprofit agencies. The awarding of eight buses, coupled with State Department of Transportation operating funds, provided CHEER with the resources to start its own transportation program, which continues today.
In March 1998, construction started on the Warren L. and Charles C. Allen Jr. Multi-Purpose CHEER Community and Adult Day Center on Sand Hill Road east of Georgetown. It opened in 1999 with a large multipurpose room, day care center, fitness room, conference room and offices.
CHEER ended its first 50 years with a year that provided some of the most challenging circumstances since its inception. The COVID pandemic caused the agency to close its center doors to seniors twice. The agency continued to serve seniors through creative thinking on how to ensure their physical and mental well-being. Through the dedication and commitment of staff and volunteers, CHEER continued to provide nutritious meals for seniors using both homebound delivery and curbside pickup. Virtual activities also were offered over the internet to engage seniors socially, intellectually and creatively, helping to fight the threat of depression during isolation.
The demand for senior citizen services in Sussex County is exploding with the growing senior population. One in every three Sussex Countians is 60 years old or over. Sussex County has a higher percentage of senior citizens than anywhere else in the state and higher than the national average. CHEER continues to provide innovative programs designed to promote healthy physical, mental and emotional lifestyles for citizens 60 years of age and over.
For more information, go to cheerde.com or call 302-515-3040.