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Low membership puts Avonmore senior center at risk

| Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 12:41 a.m.

The financial problem that almost closed the East Vandergrift Senior Citizens Center may now be threatening the Avonmore center.Kathy Mazur, director of the Alle-Kiski Valley Senior Centers Inc., which operates those centers and one in New Kensington, said the center must recruit more members in order to keep getting state and county funds.

She said recruiting more members and broadening the appeal of the center will be one focus of a town meeting to be held at the center on Thursday.

“There's about 160 members listed, but only 75 are paying dues,” Mazur said. “That's not bad for that size center, but they are not going by that.”The problem lies with how often those members use the center, she said.

Mazur said the Area Agency on Aging looks at the “sign-ins” — the number of people who sign their names when they enter the center be it for lunch, an exercise program or just to socialize.

On average, that number is only 20 to 25 per day, she said.

“We heard it through the grapevine that Avonmore was next up,” she said. “Avonmore is a poorly attended center.

“We even offered a free lunch,” she said. ”We're not getting big results, but we did get some results.”

She said the cost to join is $20 and seniors can go to any of the three locations.

But given Avonmore's somewhat isolated location that could be a problem if the center there closes.

“Senior centers are just hurting financially,” Mazur said. “There are services that the (Area Agency)provides that are going to be hit.”She said hours for staff members were cut back from 37.5 hours to 32 hours and there have been no pay raises for about five years.“There is no reason to panic, but we keep seeing things shrink,” Mazur said.

Avonmore Mayor Aileen Reid said the town meeting was scheduled to discuss a number of issues related to fueling a renaissance for the community.Keeping the senior citizens center going is part of that, she said, “Because this is the vitality of the elderly population in our community. This is our social life, this is their entertainment. And we definitely want to carry on in that respect.”

She said the hope is that people will come with ideas to help keep the senior center going and try to explore further some ideas that have already been put forth, such as establishing a coffee shop and a soup kitchen at the center with the help of community volunteers.

“We want it to be inter-generational,” Reid said of the effort. “We don't want it to be just focused on the seniors, but on the whole community coming together to support the seniors.”

“Our goal is to sell 20 lunches a day and to have 11,000 sign-ins per year,” Reid said.

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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