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New Freedom senior center rebounds from financial instability

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

Lorraine Walters first starting attending classes at the South Central York County Senior Center 14 years ago after moving to New Freedom following her husband's death.

A native Marylander, Walters was a stranger in the area and began visiting the center to have something to do. Since then, she's attended programs daily and has participated in exercise classes, Christmas parties and card games.

"We come out, we do things together and we go home — and we're happy," Walters said. "But, if you just stay home all the time, you're not going to be happy by yourself." 

Though busy and bustling with activity, the senior center was recently threatened with permanent closure due to financial instability.

From left, Fuji Smith, Linda Duball, both of Shrewsbury, and Doris Grove of Glen Rock, knot blankets, first assembled, pinned and then delivered by local churches, at South Central York County Senior Center in New Freedom, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. The blankets are then sent to disaster victims. Dawn J. Sagert photo

With a reprieve from the New Freedom Borough Council, which voted unanimously in August to waive the center's rent and utilities for the remainder of 2019, the senior center got a second chance.

As the board's reprieve ended Dec. 31, the senior center is again paying rent. But officials said the once cash-strapped senior center has since rebounded — and its board of directors is confident the the center can thrive going forward. 

"Without the (borough council) we would have closed the doors," said Bob Wehr, president of the South Central York Senior Center board of directors. "That's really what kept us here. We're in good shape financially now."

More:New Freedom council gives cash-strapped senior center more time

Since August, board members have mobilized to increase fundraising efforts and met monthly with New Freedom to provide progress updates on their financial situation.

New Freedom Borough Council members were not immediately available for comment.

In addition to community dance fundraisers, the center's board of directors wrote several grant applications, visited dozens of municipalities and sent letters out to hundreds of community members and businesses.

Clem Marchildon, of Shrewsbury Township, signs a group card for another member while the group waits for their lunchtime meal at South Central York County Senior Center in New Freedom, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Despite a fear that the senior center would need to downsize in order to save money on rent, Wehr said that wouldn't be necessary after an influx of monetary support.

"If we give up this room, we lose these activities because we really don't have any other place to put that activity," Wehr said. "I think (the borough) understood that, so there hasn't been any discussion about that at this point." 

The center has a membership of 615 and serves roughly 70 to 90 people a day, center officials said.

Resident nurse and center board member Judy Flemmens, left, takes a blood pressure reading for Peggy McNally, of Parkton, Md., at South Central York County Senior Center in New Freedom, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Successfully getting out of financial instability, the South Central York Senior Center aims to keep the momentum alive and continue to build up savings into 2020 with several new fundraisers already on the table, Wehr said.

"I can't imagine what it would be like to wake up every morning to have nowhere to go and have nothing to do," Wehr said. "And that's what this place gives seniors."

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.