The Senior Center offers more than many people might realize, but it needs funding to stay open

Photo by Marty Cheek
Volunteer Bernice Lawrence, Program Coordinator Denise Melroy and Mahmoud Mohlavi during a lunch at the Senior Center. An average of about 70 seniors attend the daily lunches.

By Dorie Sugay

Dorie Sugay

The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is an African proverb that refers to the importance of the participation of the whole community in making sure that child grows in an empowering, safe and healthy environment.  Well, “it takes a village” to care, to make sure older adults have an “age-friendly” environment that will be safe and healthy, but also supportive of them as they journey through a world with challenges.

Morgan Hill is very blessed because a small group of people who really care has been working in the background to champion older adults. During a recent event that the Guglielmo Winery owners so charitably hosted, Cricket Rubino said, “When our economy took a tumble, the Senior Center took a $30,000 budget cut, which meant shorter hours of operation, fewer programs and services.” This financial storm inspired a small group of people to form Friends of Morgan Hill Senior Center (FMHSC). Their goal was to find a way to help the Senior Center continue to be there for Morgan Hill older adults. They did.

Eight years ago, FMHSC started a Bingo game every Tuesday.

“The money from Bingo provided grant requests for the Senior Center and the YMCA nutrition program”, said Rubino, the head of FMHSC which to this day, manages the game. It helped sustain the center and promote new programs like Get’n Around Town which provides free rides with the help of volunteers.

But the FMHSC and the dynamic duo at the Senior Center (Debbie Vasquez and Denise Melroy) knew that funds from the Bingo game could not give the Senior Center enough to keep up with the population explosion of older adults. Vasquez, who heads up the Senior Center said, “Less than 20 years from now, one in four people in the region will be 60 years of age or older. During the next 10 years, the region will experience a more than 40 percent increase in the 60-plus population …”  As she spoke at the recent launch of the Endowment and Legacy Fund kickoff, one could not help but gasp at the big task at hand to ensure that the Senior Center can continue to fully operate for years to come.

Photo courtesy Friends of Morgan Hill Senior Center
Caitlin and Josh Jachimowicz and Tom and Doris Squeri, at a recent launch of the Endowment and Legacy Fund kickoff at Guglielmo Winery.

Not surprisingly, they have answers — an endowment.  As you may or may not know, an endowment is usually set up to grow principal and gain interest that could then sustain the needs of the Senior Center and better secure its future.

Without delay, an endowment committee was formed, and the work began.  On Aug. 15,  the committee invited the Senior Center’s strongest supporters to an Endowment and Legacy Fund kick off to announce and seek their participation to help raise $1.5 million in five years.

Margaret Mead, an anthropologist, said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

If 300 individuals or organizations wrote a check for $5,000 to dedicate a leaf on a tree that adorns a wall in the lobby of the Senior Center, the deed will be done.  If an organization donated to get naming rights — the funds needed can be raised more easily.  There are many options to help and the Senior Center can use every dollar to secure the future, so don’t hesitate to give what you truly can because, “It takes a village.”

The clock is set — a handful supporters have come forward to help but the road is long.  What will you do, to help guarantee that when you reach your later years, you will have a place to go for help or just have a safe happy place to spend some time where you are treated with respect and where you will feel appreciated?

If you’re not the type to go to a Senior Center and have funds to share, how about a donation to help the Senior Center help those who may need legal help, or a ride to get to town to escape isolation, or need dementia support?

(By the way, if you want to donate time instead, they could use more volunteers.)  The Senior Center offers more than many people might realize. Vasquez is never too busy to give anyone or any group a tour and is always eager to share how seriously she and her team takes the “Age Friendly City” designation the city of Morgan Hill received in 2016.

Then there’s Melroy — she lives to connect and loves showing off to people how the center has helped thousands and can help you. Take a trip to 171 Edmundson Ave., and take a peek. Be a villager — call Debbie or Denise at (408) 782-1284 to offer help.

Dorie Sugay is the owner and executive director of Visiting Angels in Gilroy whose mission is to help older adults in Santa Clara and San Benito counties continue to live in their own homes or receive personalized care in a facility. She wrote this column for Morgan Hill Life. Contact her at dorie@visitingangels.com.

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