Tri County Senior Citizens and Housing celebrating 50 years

Contributed photo Tri County Senior Citizens & Housing Inc. is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

MONTE VISTA — Tri County Senior Citizens & Housing Inc. is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Located at 311 Washington St., in Monte Vista, Tri County was the vision of several local seniors who wanted to have a place of their own to socialize and recreate together.

These visionaries, with the assistance of the local American Red Cross Board, pushed forward the idea and became officially incorporated 50 years ago.

The original name of the organization was Monte Vista Regional Seniors. The name Tri County came later in 1974, when seniors from Mineral and Saguache counties joined and the name was changed to Tri County Senior Citizens, because it would serve citizens in Rio Grande, Saguache, and Mineral counties. The group first used the recreation hall at what is now the Veterans Community Living Center at Homelake as “home.”

To be eligible for federal funding for seniors, the group needed a sponsor. The Rio Grande County commissioners at the time gave their consent to the Rio Grande County Department of Social Services to be the sponsor. It was at that time the organization could qualify for federal funding for seniors. The City of Monte Vista also donated a school bus to the group so they would have transportation for excursions. The “bus” travelled many miles and there was always a lot of laughter.

In 1975, Rio Grande County endorsed a $750,000 project to build a new low-income senior housing complex. Also in 1975, the San Luis Valley Council of Governments became the fiscal sponsor replacing Rio Grande County Department of Social Services.

Tri County Senior Center was the first of its kind in Colorado that was a unified effort of three county governments to come together for a common need of senior citizens. It was soon afterward that the Articles of Incorporation were changed to a non-profit status.

There were lots of visionary meetings between 1975 and 1977 on how to move forward. In April of 1977, Akira Kawanabi was hired as the architect to plan and design the new low-income senior housing complex.

Tri County leadership worked with FmHA and Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) for financing. In 1978, with support from the community, the City of Monte Vista formed a Housing Authority. Final funding for the visionary new building was approved through CHFA and the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funding programs.

In 1980, there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the new building. Bassett Construction of Pueblo was the chosen contractor, and construction began. The complex would include 33 one- and two-bedroom units, an activity-dining room area, and a commercial kitchen.

It was five years after the initial planning and construction of the building that the formal grand opening for Mountain View Manor, the apartment portion of Tri County, located at 311 Washington St. in Monte Vista was held April 24, 1981. After much discussion, it was decided that the operations of Mountain View Manor should be under a nonprofit called Tri County Senior Citizens and Housing Inc.

The organization was busy and obtained transportation through the nutritional program, and the Monte Vista Elks Lodge. The group was busy with local activities and traveled to various sites throughout the Valley.

In 1989, Tri County decided to build a second building for senior citizens south of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Monte Vista. It was completed in 1990 and was called High Valley Manor which Tri County operated for more than 12 years. It was sold in 2002 because other assisted living units for seniors were built and there was more need for subsidized housing for families.

Tri County has been refurbished and improvements have been made over the years. An Energy Outreach Colorado grant replaced the boiler, old lighting and thermostats and air exchange units. Other funders helped update the aging elevator in 2018 as well as the complete a facelift of the asphalt parking lot.

Tri County tenants and the members play billiards and cards, they exercise line dance, and they socialize in many ways. Bingo was a Tri County activity in the past and will be reenergized in the future. COVID put a damper on activities and happenings at Tri County for almost two years, but the facility is opening back up and moving forward.

Membership in Tri County Senior Citizens is open to anyone 55 years of age and older. Come enjoy the activities and educational opportunities Tri County has to offer. Lunch is served daily starting at noon and a $3 donation is suggested. South Central Colorado Seniors operates the nutritional program and one should contact them for other ways to obtain noon meals.

The apartments at Tri County are considered Independent Living units. All apartments are currently rented and there is a waiting list, but that changes and is updated on an on-going basis. To qualify for the subsidized housing one must be 62 years old or have qualified disabilities and meet income qualifications. The monthly rent for subsidized housing is determined by one’s annual income.

Tri County’s annual meeting is at 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 24, in the dining room.