East Albany fights to keep senior center - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

East Albany fights to keep senior center

August 16, 2005

Albany-- The SOWEGA Council on Aging says it can't afford to keep the senior center running.

About 20 seniors come to the center each day to eat and socialize at what used to be the Acey-Deucy Club when the Air Force owned the property three decades ago.

Today, some of those folks asked Albany city commissioners to keep the center open.

The James H. Gray Senior Center in East Albany offers more than lunch to seniors. Ida Belle Stafford says, "I just come out here to keep from being at home by myself. That's why I come out here, I love out here."

Stafford, like many of the people around these tables, has come to the senior center for decades. "We have good times out here," says 100 year old Ida Belle.

Mildred Tyson says "It means getting away from home. I live by myself, so I get among people. We have activities out there. It's a lovely place, really."

A lovely place that's in danger of shutting down. Budget cuts and soaring transportation costs are forcing the SOWEGA Council on Aging to close the center. A $10,000 community block grant kept the center running this summer, but that money runs out August 31st.

The Council on Aging wants to bus the east side seniors to the center downtown on Pine Avenue, but they're not going without a fight. "As far as going across town, I ain't going over there. I'm going to stay on this side of the river," said Ms. Stafford.

Stafford and others seniors did make that trip across the river this morning to ask commissioners to take control of the center and keep it open.

"Most of them have gotten acclimated to the facility and they have bond together as neighbors and as a big family." Commissioner Jon Howard asked the Council on Aging to give the commission a budget to see how much it would cost to run the center.

And commissioners asked the city's staff to see if there's money available. Howard said "If there can be some funds found, I would certainly hope the City could take it over."

But for now, the future looks dim for the center these seniors depend on for food and friendship.

The city is also talking about building a new centralized senior center to replace the aging and overcrowded community centers.

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