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West Stanly seniors seek support

As their funding situation becomes dire once again, volunteers at the West Stanly Senior Center are reaching out for support.

A couple of months ago, representatives from the center began talking with Stanly’s western municipalities about the benefits and needs of their facility. So far they have made presentations in both Stanfield and Locust, and hope to reach out to Red Cross and Oakboro, as well.

“The western towns need to work together to have something really good going for the senior citizens here,” said volunteer Judy Lynch at the Stanfield Town Council meeting this month.

Since they are not part of the county’s senior services program, the West Stanly Senior Center runs completely on volunteer labor and private donations, she noted. Despite that, they are open five days a week and host everything from exercise, to social, to craft-making programs at their facility in the Locust Town Center.

“We want to provide the same benefits here as in the rest of the county,” volunteer Glen Mabry said. “That’s what our seniors need to keep healthy mentally and physically.”

However, that’s proved difficult to do on donations alone. Even though they don’t have labor expenses, their current facility costs about $25,000 a year in rent and utilities, volunteers explained.

When the senior center was started in 2014, those costs were covered by a large start-up donation from a church and a pair of private citizens. However, that funding was largely expended by 2016.

At that time, the county commissioners granted a one-time $25,000 appropriation to help keep the facility going, but that ran out about a year ago. Now the senior center is back to operating on private donations and it is not clear how much longer it will be able to do so.

“Many have benefitted from what the senior center provides… but I’ll admit it’s been a great struggle,” Mabry said.

Volunteers have tried to find ways to supply their own funding, Lynch added. They host bingo nights on a regular basis, offer annual memberships and put together special fundraisers. They have also asked to be incorporated into Stanly County Senior Services.

However, commissioners have been reluctant to adopt the facility, particularly since receiving the results of a feasibility study this spring. According to that study, western Stanly isn’t the only area that is in need of more senior programming. Due to a growing concentration of senior citizens throughout the county, several areas — particularly Norwood — could benefit from such programming, as well.

As such, commissioners felt they could not justify funding a program in Locust without providing funding for those areas as well, which would increase their budget significantly.

“In short, we’ve been to the county and we can’t break the curtain,” Mabry said.

That leaves the West Stanly Senior Center in financial limbo. Having reached the limits of county and private funding, they are looking to their next option: nearby municipalities.

“We need your support,” Lynch told Stanfield town councilors at their last meeting. “This isn’t just something for Locust… we have a lot of seniors in Stanfield, Oakboro, Red Cross, all around.”

The West Stanly Senior Center brings in hundreds of people a month, she detailed, the vast majority of which come from western Stanly towns.

“And they give back to their communities, too,” Lynch said, noting how attendees use their facility to gather and prepare donations for groups like Project Linus, Stanly County Social Services and animal rescues.

However, it is unclear how much the nearby towns will be able to spare. With budgets already set for the next financial year, both Locust and Stanfield have said they are still considering their options.

“We need to look at what we can and can’t do,” Mayor Kevin Barbee said, noting that a number of nonprofits request money from the town each year. “We’re limited in some aspects as to what we can contribute to with taxpayer money.”

In the meantime, West Stanly Senior Center volunteers said they are determined to provide whatever services they can for as long as we can.

“We need to take care of the elderly,” Lynch said. “That’s what we’re here to do.”