For years, Thankful Thursday has offered the people of Casper the chance to “party with a purpose.” Thankful Thursday was created as a way to raise money, and awareness, for various nonprofit organizations throughout Natrona County. Since its inception, this fundraising event, held at The Beacon Club, has raised millions of dollars for countless organizations and on Sept. 21, Thankful Thursday will benefit Central Wyoming Senior Services.

The mission of Central Wyoming Senior Services is “to assist individuals aged 60 and older in Natrona County by providing or accessing community services and resources to maintain their dignity and independence, using qualified and trained staff to help them meet their nutritional, educational, social, emotional, financial, and recreational needs.”

CWSS does so many things for the elders of Natrona County, and Thursday will offer the community a chance to invest back into the organization.

“The services that we offer help keep our elderly in their homes as long as possible, which is not only good for them, but it’s also good for the taxpayers because when there’s premature institutionalization, it oftentimes comes out of the taxpayers’ money,” said Aimee Ottley-Fleming, the executive director of Central Wyoming Senior Services. “Seniors live longer when they can stay in their homes. And that’s basically what we do; our whole goal is to keep Natrona County senior citizens in their homes for as long as possible.”

CWSS offers a myriad of in-house services and activities as well, including exercise programs, bingo, opportunities to play pool, line dancing and more. That’s in addition to the nutrition services they offer each day, featuring a hot, nourishing meal once a day that is approved by a Registered Dietician and is “Heart Healthy.”

“We provide nutrition and for many of the people that come here — that’s the only meal they’re going to get that day,” Ottley-Fleming shared. “Staying active is also a large part of our mission. We are proud of the ways we meet the needs of our members. We offer classes to stay active and facilitate monthly presentations to educate seniors about better ways to take care of themselves. We are more than just a place to get a meal; we are a social center providing safe physical activities, daily sustenance, and companionship for the 60+ community of Natrona County and the surrounding areas.”

CWSS provides a tremendous service to the senior citizens of Natrona County and their families, but doing so comes at a cost.

“Raw food so far, this fiscal year, was budgeted at $143,000,” Ottley-Fleming revealed. “Right now, we have three months left in the year, and we’ve spent $166,000. So we’re already $23,000 over previous years. I imagine the end total will be between $40,000–$50,000 over budget this year.”

Ottley-Fleming said that the kitchen manager of CWSS works hard to be thrifty and shop smart and, if she didn’t, the total would be closer to $60,000 over budget. But, she said, food services are the most important thing they offer to seniors and that is something that they simply can’t skimp on. Which is why they need help.

“Fundraising is so important to us,” Ottley-Fleming stated. “The cost of food is tremendous. Even regular consumers are feeling the cost of raw food being through the roof. But for us, the biggest expenditures are cost of food, paper supplies and utilities and labor in order to remain competitive. So we have to do a lot of fundraising to make ends meet; more so than I’ve ever actually seen us have to do.”

CWSS is relying on the kindness of strangers and supporters, all of whom will have the chance to bid on some pretty incredible items at Thankful Thursday.

“We have a few guns,” Ottley-Fleming revealed. “One of the items that we’re auctioning off is a pink custom Ladies Glock 43X. It comes in a package with a purse, ammo, and range time. It’s really pretty.”

They’re also auctioning off a couples kayak package, which includes two kayaks and multiple accessories, as well as a “Date-a-Month” package, which includes 12 date nights that people can use throughout the year.

Additionally, CWSS is auctioning off a wheelbarrow full of various types of alcohol, and a freezer full of 4-H pig for the pork lovers in your life. There is also a beauty package that allows the winner a full day of pampering with a nail appointment, a hair appointment and more. They’re also auctioning off a guided fly fishing trip and a guided pheasant hunting trip. All of these items make this Thankful Thursday event one that is not to be missed.

But even more than the chance to win some really, really cool things and experiences is the chance to give back to an organization that does so much for this community. The proceeds from the event will go right back into serving the seniors of Natrona County, in terms of food cost and in terms of hiring the best staff.

“I’m very pro-staff,” Ottley-Fleming stated. “I’m very grateful for our staff and I’m their biggest advocate. We want to be able to do as much as we can for them. Without our staff, we don’t have a business. We don’t have the programs. And seniors won’t be taken care of.”

Ottley-Fleming knows the importance of a staff that feels appreciated. She also knows the importance of providing a place for seniors to eat, to socialize and to live their lives as best they can. She’s proud of the work that she and her team do and she is proud to live in a community like Natrona County.

“I am so thankful for the giving in this community,” she said, beaming. “It’s astounding to me. I am beyond grateful and also extraordinarily, pleasantly surprised at the giving that is done in Natrona County. It’s just amazing to me.”

She’s not the only one. Countless nonprofit organizations have benefitted from events like Thankful Thursday. These events are proof of how incredible Natrona County is at caring for each other.

“They are pivotal,” Ottley-Fleming said. “They are our lifeline. We wouldn’t exist without them and that’s why I’m saying that one of the things I’m most proud of is just how amazingly giving this community is and how many programs there are that participate in this method of fundraising. A lot of the counties throughout Wyoming do not have the degree of giving that Natrona County does. And we are so thankful to be here.”

Thankful Thursday benefitting Central Wyoming Senior Services is happening on Sept. 21 at The Beacon Club in Mills. Doors open at 5 p.m. with various drink specials, and the event begins at 6 p.m. For more information, visit the Thankful Thursday website or follow the Central Wyoming Senior Services Facebook page.

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