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Challenges – Silverton Senior Center seeking help from city, community

By James Day

Like many nonprofits, the Silverton Senior Center still is trying to recover from COVID-19.

Use of the center dropped during the pandemic, and memberships declined as well. The center also was forced to close its Revamp Store, which had been bringing in a needed $2,000 per month by selling used items.

Now, the center board reports it is losing $5,000 per month and it is appealing to the community and the city for assistance.

The good news is that an anonymous donor has promised to match any community donations up to $50,000 through the end of the year. To make the matching funds a reality, the Center has issued an appeal for help to the community via its website and Facebook page.

“We are writing to let you know that the Silverton Senior Center is in jeopardy and we need your help,” reads the first paragraph of the note from Jenny Ohren, board president.

“While the Board of Directors continues to pursue alternative income sources, the reality is that most of these are medium to long term and will not develop to provide the immediate relief necessary. The only available course is a direct appeal to the community.”

The Senior Center receives revenue from three main sources: memberships, donations and sponsorships. Memberships currently are $48 per year ($24 for veterans). Board member Terry Brandon told Our Town that “even if we raised that fee $10 it just wouldn’t raise enough. And I don’t want to see us do that to our members.”

“And $48 is a lot for some people,” said Ohren, who met with Our Town along with Brandon and Dodie Brockamp, the center’s executive director since February 2012.

The center currently has reserves that will allow it to absorb the monthly losses – for now.

“Two years from now at this rate and we would reach a critical stage,” Brandon said. “Four years would exhaust us. We’ve got a good, solid community out there. We just need to let them know about what we need.”

“This town is great at support,” Brockamp said.

The center currently has 580 members, with Brockamp noting that memberships have picked up now that the COVID challenge has been reduced. Also, the center has lowered the membership age to 50.

Complicating matters is that the building, which is owned by the city, is in need of heating and ventilation (HVAC) and solar panel repairs. The center and the city disagree on who is responsible for repairs to the building, which the center rents for $1 per year.

“It is hard for us to fund repairs,” Brandon said. “The city needs to step up and fix the building.”

Senior Center officials have appeared twice in front of the Silverton Council in recent months, requesting assistance, but Mayor Jason Freilinger told Our Town “the details of the assistance they were needing for building maintenance were not clearly articulated.  

“This type of expenditure needs to go before the budget committee. The existing agreement between the Senior Center and the city is that the city, urban renewal funding, and grants provided the building and that the Senior Center would be self-sustaining. This included the Senior Center maintaining the building.

“I believe the council and budget committee as a whole need to discuss the implications of this significant increase in financial obligations the city would be taking on by agreeing to this [request].”

How to help match those funds

To assist the Silverton Senior Center earn its $50,000 matching fund challenge go to
https://silvertonseniors.org/index.html and hit the blue donate button or call 503-873-3093.

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