New and improved Banner Olive Branch Senior Center: A forever home for West Valley older adults
West Valley area seniors are enjoying the best of all worlds with the opening of the new and significantly improved Banner Olive Branch Senior Center – the familiarity of old friends and friendly faces of staff they have come to know and love; a contemporary, new facility; and expanded services and offerings for older adults.
In April, Banner Olive Branch Senior Center moved to its new and much larger location on 103rd Avenue in Sun City. At 25,000 square feet, the new Center can function even better and more efficiently to help older adults maintain health and independence and avoid complications from chronic health conditions, with nutritious food at the heart of its mission.
Seniors are often at risk for food insecurity as well as feelings of loneliness and isolation, which is why Banner Olive Branch operates a food pantry, delivers meals to homebound patients, provides free legal advice on medical and social service benefits, and holds group activities for our older population since 1988.
Five days a week, Olive Branch serves up hot, nutritious meals for seniors on a fixed income; but, the gift of companionship for many living alone is of equal importance. The benefits of sitting around a big table — in a bustling cafeteria setting with others similarly seeking an opportunity to share both a meal and conversation — are incalculable. Those individuals might also pick up a bag of groceries on their way home from the Center’s food pantry that otherwise may not be attainable on a tight budget.
Due to rising food and energy costs, the need for services provided has grown. Recently, the food pantry saw more than 200 people come through in a single day, twice the number of usual visitors, with 155 also stopping in for lunch or grabbing to-go meals. Meanwhile, the new food pantry is larger with state-of-the-art shelving for easy picking, as well as industrial-sized coolers for individuals to pick cold items.
Banner Olive Branch operates a food
pantry, delivers meals to homebound
patients, provides free legal advice on
medical and social service benefits and
holds group activities for our older
population since 1988.
“We are thrilled to be offering this to the seniors in our communities. It’s a beautiful, welcoming facility that allows us to provide more meals, greater access to donated foods and more social services. We couldn’t be happier with it,’’ said Dawn Gielau, director of Banner Olive Branch Senior Center.
Salvatore Candeloro could not be happier, or more grateful, either.
“I started going to the pantry in 2022, due to health issues that prevented me from working and experiencing a reduction in living wages,” Salvatore explains. “I was recommended to the pantry from a friend and did not know what to expect as I have never had to ask for assistance. What I found was a group of people, both employees and volunteers, committed to running a senior lunch and pantry program as smoothly and pleasantly as possible. I have been greeted by so many people in a friendly, kind manner that I am often taken aback by their hospitality. Top the kindness off with much needed groceries and this organization has created a community supportive experience I have never witnessed in my 60 years of life.”
And, what does he think of the new facility?
“I was greeted with even more kindness, as everyone is excited to be at the new location. The tireless hours and amount of effort getting situated in the new space has not gone unnoticed by me. The larger space and multiple levels will allow the organization to provide even more services to seniors,” Salvatore says.
Olive Branch Senior Center programs and services
Beyond putting food on the table, they provide services that are lifelines for daily living, such as:
- Health screenings
- Exercise classes
- Legal aid
- Vision-impaired assistance
Importantly, a benefits review program gives seniors access to services each qualifies for and apply directly with the Department of Economic Services. The benefits enrollment program prepares staff to educate, screen for eligibility and enroll vulnerable low-income seniors for an array of benefits, including Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program and the Medicare savings programs.
Also, a mobile pantry comes once per month with a semi-truck delivery from St. Mary’s Food Bank that offers all community members bags of food. Last year the pantry collected and distributed more than 1 million pounds of food.
New and expanded center offerings
Five days a week, Olive Branch
serves up hot, nutritious meals
for seniors on a fixed income;
but, the gift of companionship
for many living alone is of
The new facility has two health rooms thanks to a grant from the National Council on Aging Wellness Center. This fall, the Senior Center will host four flu and COVID booster clinics. A movie room complete with a large television and furniture, library and a chair exercise room for seniors to have an opportunity for fitness are all available in a dedicated space. Also located in the dining room, a stage is available for speakers, entertainers and the Monday Mending Group, who repair clothes on-site.
Other key donors who have enabled Olive Branch to meet the increased needs of seniors that really ticked upward during the COVID pandemic and shows no sign of stopping, include: Area Agency on Aging; Arizona Food Bank Network; Board of Visitors; Fry's Food Stores of Arizona; Maricopa County Department of Public Health; National Council on Aging; Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust; Onsemi; The Arizona Republic / Season for Sharing; and the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust.
“Now that I am entering this stage of life I can see how much senior programs are needed, says Salvatore.” I know for me in my time of need, it has been a life saver.”