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Archive for Wednesday, July 14, 1993

SENIOR CENTER FACES DEFICIT, PROGRAM CUTS

July 14, 1993

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A financial famine is threatening to swallow services and lead to staffing cuts at Douglas County Senior Services.

The center's board of directors tentatively has set an emergency meeting Tuesday to address a deficit described by center volunteers as in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Center officials already have met with affected seniors' groups and volunteers at the center, 745 Vt., but they balked at releasing details about the deficit this morning.

Among the staffers the agency would like to reduce to half-time is recreation director Mary Coral, who has served at the agency since March 1979.

Decades ago, Coral said, desire fed the fledgling arts and recreation program that money had left malnourished at the end of its first year. She helped raise $36,000 to save the program, she said.

She will not stay aboard if her job is cut in half, she said.

"It would be a charade to think you can run a program of this magnitude" in half the time, she said. "I just won't be a part of it."

Since turning 60, Erika Binns likes to remind herself that the body has a head. Pills and physical therapy help maintain the body, she explained, but only programs like the center's arts and crafts program can sustain the head.

"It eliminates or diminishes the chance of shutting down intellectually," she said.

Binns is one of about 1,000 older people who use the center to find new life vistas as the tides of family and profession recede.

Binns said Coral is an artist with whom she found a level of communication. Coral has helped Binns create works that have won contests, Binns said.

"It's like a new life," she said.

The center reportedly also has decided to scuttle the Housing Options Made Easier program.

Volunteers with the Kaw Valley Chapter of the Older Women's League worked for two years to provide shared housing and chore services. Betty Dutton headed up the effort.

"This center is not going to die. The sad part to me is that there are human casualties along the way," Dutton said.

"I'm disappointed in the demise of the HOME program ... but they probably shouldn't have taken it on," she said.

She hopes board members will come to Tuesday's meeting with their ears open.

"They must genuinely mean that they want to hear input and use the input that the community brings," she said.

Ed Dutton, who heads the Douglas County Advocacy Council on Aging and is a member of center's transportation committee, called the center's board of directors an "absentee board." Board members are appointed by the Douglas County Commission.

Dutton advocates a board at least partly made up of those who use the center's services.

He said that although the board is conscientious, it rarely visits the center.

"They don't know when a problem is brewing," he said.

Board member Beverly Smith agreed that it's important to have a board which includes individuals who use the center.

"We, of course, have to draw from a variety of resources," she said. "We will continue efforts to recruit users for the board."

Dutton blamed the deficit on an overambitious agenda and funding sources that fell through.

"I think they got over their heads," he said. "They anticipated money from grocery stores -- the coupon program -- that was never realized ... Some things that they expected to happen didn't happen, and now they're having to make the adjustment."

"Maybe they were trying to do too many things," he said.

The agency is not for profit and provides adult day care, nutrition programs and transportation, among other services for the elderly. It receives funding from donations, the county, the state and the federal government.

The board meeting, open to the public, is scheduled for 1:30 in the meal room on the second floor of the center.

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