Three years ago, the Livingston Council on Aging confronted financial problems and was in danger of shutting its doors. But on Thursday more than 250 senior citizens celebrated the agency’s 41st anniversary with a Cajun-themed party.

“Three years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to have this,” said the agency’s vice chairperson, Rosie Moak. “We didn’t have enough money to operate.”

To help keep the doors open, Moak said, she and other board members cut back on spending. Today, the agency is thriving.

Thursday’s celebration was held to thank seniors for sticking by the COA’s side during some of its darkest days, and to promote the variety of services the agency provides, Moak said.

Barbara Curtis, of Denham Springs, said the COA literally “saved her life.”

“The Council on Aging was a godsend,” Curtis, 74, said.

Following the death of her husband in 2010, Curtis said she “was sitting there rocking myself away.”

That all changed when a representative from a bereavement group she had been attending recommended joining the Council on Aging.

Curtis now visits the COA in Denham Springs daily, and volunteers for the agency when she is needed.

“Many of these seniors stay in the privacy of their own home and many only see their family members on holidays,” said Margaret “Maggie” Gross, of A Visiting Care Association Personal Care Services. “This is something they look forward to.”

Gross was a representative from one of several agencies that attended the event to offer information about services for seniors.

The event also featured a fashion show, swamp pop music, a visit from representatives with the West Baton Rouge Museum and Bluebonnet Swamp Nature, and a host of Louisiana delicacies such as alligator sausage and crawfish pies.

Shirley Vicich, 75, of Livingston, who attends the event annually, said it’s an event “older people really enjoy.”

“They actually get to be with their friends and that’s what they want,” Gayle Miller, 76, of Livingston, added.

Board member Jim Brown said he hoped the celebration would also inform seniors about what the COA offers.

“Livingston Parish is growing,” Brown said. “I don’t think a lot of seniors understand all that we offer.”

In addition to meal sites in Denham Springs, Livingston, Springfield and Maurepas, the COA offers home-delivered meals, assistance with utility bills, help with medical equipment, personal care services, home repairs, transportation, family caregiver support and legal assistance, among other services.

The COA also hosts a variety of activities such as bingo, ceramics and dances, Brown said.

“The highlight of their day is when the van picks them up in the morning,” Brown said. “They are getting to interact with each other instead of watching TV all day.”

Board members for the Livingston Council on Aging for 2014-2015 are Tina Arbuckle, Jim Barclay, Brown, Josie Crisco, Jonnie Dorris, Gerard Landry, Miller, Moak, Secretary Charles Perkins, Raymond Rodriguez, Vicich, Shelia Wall and Jewel Whitehead.

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