M.O.T. Jean Birch Senior Center losing $55,000 in state grant-in-aid funding

Senior centers statewide are scrambling to find money to cover the General Assembly’s reduction of funds to nonprofits.

The annual budget signed July 3 by Gov. John Carney cuts grants-in-aid to all nonprofits by 20 percent compared to the 2017 fiscal year.

Senior centers are among the nonprofits relying on the grants to balance their budgets. Many administrators at senior centers in the First State are planning to cover the shortfall by holding fundraisers. Some are considering raising membership fees or cutting programs.

Middletown center faces $55,000 cut

In Middletown, the aid reduction is almost $55,000 at the M.O.T. Jean Birch Senior Center’s annual budget, said Cecilia Rozumalski, executive director.

Center officials don’t know if they are going to raise the membership fees or not, but they are considering it, Rozumalski said. The fee is $15 a year.

“We are looking at everything. The board [of directors] is taking a measured look at every budget line item we have and services we provide,” Rozumalski said.

The center will have more fundraisers and she hopes the senior citizen community and businesses will support them to cover the shortfall, she said.

“We are going to try to not cut services. We just don’t know,” Rozumalski said.

Smyrna and Clayton centers affected

“We’re not decreasing any services. We’re just holding more fundraisers,” said Debbie Brown, director of the Mamie A. Warren Senior Center where the state grant was cut by about $36,000.

The facility on Wheatley’s Pond Road has a Smyrna address but is west of Smyrna and Clayton, on the way to Kenton.

Some of the upcoming fundraisers at the center include a concert by the Jones Boys Friday, Aug. 25, and a crab feast Friday, Sept. 8.

In September, the center is raffling off a $25 gift card to Food Lion with chances for $1 each or six for $5, and in October, a “bakeless bake sale” is planned, where no food will be sold, but visitors can place donations in a hollow Styrofoam cake.

“We’re doing anything we can to bring in more money,” said Brown.

The center’s budget for this fiscal year is about $300,000.

The center will be raising its membership fees from $15 to $20 in January.

Also, members who want to receive the center’s newsletter in the mail will pay a $10 fee for the year. It’s mailed for free now. But members can still pick up the newsletter for free at the center.

In Clayton, the state grant-in-aid cut means a reduction of almost $15,000 for the Lillian Smith Senior Center, said Dawn Morgan, assistant director.

The center doesn’t have membership dues right now, but there might be dues imposed later, she said.

Meals prices at the center will be increased $1, from $4 to $5 a person.

Morgan said the center used a van to take members for day trips, but that’s been eliminated because of the cut in state funds.

Budget cut almost $90,000 in Newark

The Newark Senior Center faces an $89,000 shortfall after the grant-in-aid cuts.

According to the center’s newsletter, membership will cost $33 a year, effective immediately. It’s the first time in five years the membership fee has been increased. “This will help put a small dent in this funding challenge,” the newsletter said.

Staff will do without a cost of living pay increase and will pay more for their healthcare benefits.

“We will be trying to do more small fundraisers and socials throughout the year with the thought that every little bit helps,” the newsletter said.

Modern Maturity Center losing $120,000

The Modern Maturity Center in Dover is one of the hardest hit senior centers in Delaware. The facility is facing a $120,000 cut, said Carolyn Fredricks, president and chief executive officer.

“We aren’t cutting services. We aren’t cutting hours. We are planning a fundraiser every month and we are hopeful to get the community to support services [for senior citizens] by coming out to the fundraisers,” Fredricks said.

She describes the cut as “major,” but she hopes fundraisers will cover it. However, if the state cuts the grants-in-aid again for 2019, it would be “catastrophic,” she said.

One new fundraiser is Friday Night Fry Up. It will feature fried fish and chicken from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15 at the center.

A different theme is coming every month through December, which is something new, she said.

Dover’s Janice Baker said she’s steamed about the cut in funding.

“I come here every day, and I volunteer here and I do Meals on Wheels,” she said. “These cuts are hurting. They’re hurting this center. They mess up everything people have planned and count on here [such as] the Meals on Wheels, the CHEER Center, all of the nonprofits.”

Todd Hilliker is one of many volunteers delivering Meals on Wheels every day. He’s worried cuts could cost jobs at the center and result in cutbacks of the lunchtime program that brings food to those not otherwise able to prepare it themselves.

“Hopefully, no one will go without,” he said.

Reporter Jeff Brown contributed to this story.