New Freedom council gives cash-strapped senior center more time

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
The South Central York Senior Center in New Freedom is in danger of closing due to lack of funding.
Monday, August 12, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

New Freedom Borough Council gave the financially struggling South Central York Senior Center a reprieve Monday at a standing room-only meeting.

The South Central York Senior Center board members have said the facility could face closure because of a lack of funding that has left the center fighting to get by. 

The borough council voted unanimously to waive the rent and utilities of the South Central York Senior Center, located at 150 E. Main St., for the remainder of the year. The measure included a requirement that center officials meet monthly with the borough council and discuss ways to cut costs. The center has rented space from the borough for years. 

"Nobody up here wants to hurt the seniors," borough council member Ann Shemo said.

A crowd of over 100 residents came to Monday night's New Freedom Borough Council meeting to support the South Central York County Senior Center.

The crowd of about 100 spilled into the hallway Monday night, as supporters of the senior center inched their way closer to get a chance to hear the session — some even brought lawn chairs and seat cushions. 

Bob Wehr, husband of center president Sandy Wehr, spoke on behalf of the facility. Several factors have contributed to the center's financial issues, primarily a lack of funding from the York County Area Agency on Aging and the state, he told council members.

Wehr said while the center has a funding service contract with the Area Agency on Aging, it has not received an increase in six years because of flat funding from the state.

"We're in trouble now. The center's at a turning point in its history," Bob Wehr said. 

Mark Shea, director of the York County Area Agency on Aging, was not immediately available Tuesday for comment. 

The not-for-profit South Central York Senior Center also has seen a decrease in donations from benefactors in recent years. Several townships in York County have contributed to the center; New Freedom donated $200 in 2019.

The South Central York County Senior Center has a membership of 615. About 70 to 90 residents use the facility in a day.

"We're not asking for your help to get us out of this, we're asking for your help to help us get through this," Wehr said. 

The center pays the borough a total rent and utility bill of $1,635 each month to use the municipal building.

The center has a membership of 615 and serves roughly 70 to 90 people a day, center officials said. Programs, including Tai Chi, line dancing and art classes, are offered throughout the week.

Mayor Eric Paules said the rent the borough charges the center is below market value, which elicited some disgruntled murmurs from the crowd.

Jeffrey Blum, a former New Freedom Borough Council member, agreed that the township is not being cheap.

"The borough may only provide a $200 stipend to the senior center, but that doesn't account for all of the dollars that go into maintaining the building," Blum said. "If the windows need to be cleaned inside or out, the borough does it. The borough paints all of the insides of the building."

Abby Vljarevic, who has been volunteering with the senior center since October, voiced concerns regarding the future of the Meals on Wheels program that operates out of the center, should the facility shutter.

Shemo said she has been in touch with officials at the county Area Agency on Aging that said the Meals on Wheels program would not be suspended if the center were to close.

Sandy Wehr said Tuesday that the goal now for center staff is securing long-term funding. 

"I was very pleased that (borough council members) could see that and were willing to work with us," Sandy Wehr said. "We're going to really try to see what we can do with fundraising to help us get in a better position monetarily."

— Reach Tina Locurto at or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.