Senior Center wants mortgage paid off; more room to breathe

Weiser Activity Center for Seniors volunteers enjoy a break after a busy lunch. Administrators want to pay off the building’s mortgage to ensure the future of its services. Photo by Philip A. Janquart
Philip A. Janquart
The Weiser Activity Center for Seniors is making it … barely.
 That’s the word from administrators who said recently that federal and county funds help a great deal to meet funding requirements, but that more than a third of the cost to provide seniors with meals depends on suggested donations, which makes for a very tight, and unpredictable, budget every month.
 “We are hurting down here all the time,” said Board of Directors President Karin Hoffer, who also serves as the facility’s ad-hoc program coordinator.
 Federal funds trickle down to local Area Agencies on Aging – Idaho has six of them – from the federal Administration on Aging, which was created under the 1965 Older Americans Act. The Act was reauthorized in 2016, 2019, and again in 2020, effective through 2024.
 From there, the money is allocated to organizations like Weiser’s senior center, which also receives funds from Washington County.
 “So, the government provides $4.25 per meal and then the county gives us about $6,000 a year, which is about $3 per meal,” said Hoffer, who worked for the Area Agency on Aging for 25 years.
 She noted that due to a high number of clientele lately, that the $6,000 is most likely diluted down closer to $2 per meal.
 Using the $3 figure, that comes to $7.25 per meal that is covered.
 The problem is that it costs $12 to provide each individual with a meal. The senior center relies on “suggested donations” to cover the remaining $4.75. The suggested donation per individual senior is $5 and $9 for non-seniors, which patrons slip into a little black donation box as they enter the building, located at 15 East Main St. in Weiser.
 Hoffer said she wants to keep the price down for seniors, many of whom are hard pressed to come up with the five dollars, but has been forced to raise prices in the past due to budget constraints.
 “The rest of it comes from our clients, but not all of it,” explained Board Treasurer Linda Smith. “We can’t see how much people pay. We have a box … that they put the donation into, because we can request a donation, but can’t monitor that and we are not supposed to be able to see it.”
 The idea is to provide seniors with low-cost meals. 
 Some can afford to donate more than others, but if the donations don’t match the actual cost, the senior center could quickly find itself in the red, and at any time.
 Adding to the budget-balancing challenge is the cost to keep the lights on and unforeseen maintenance issues, like the air conditioning unit that failed last summer, which cost $8,000 to repair, but only after Hoffer and Smith talked the contractor down.
 The real hamstring, however, comes from the nearly $1,800 monthly mortgage on the building, which was constructed in 2010 through a Community Development Block Grant under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The grant, in part, aims to help expand community development, including senior centers.
 Since it is a “matching” grant, the Weiser community had to come up with approximately one-third of the cost to build the facility, which came through private loans from individual community members, according to Hoffer and Smith who were not affiliated with the center at that time.
 The details are unclear, but at some point, administrators chose to refinance the building in order to pay back the loans. 
 “We owe $192,566.10 and our payoff was $195,953, so we’ve just been paying interest,” Smith said. “The total amount of payments on this loan was $461,073.60. We are not making any ground.”
 Weiser’s senior center has become a vital resource in the community, serving over 700 meals every month through its meal delivery program alone. Volunteers use the center’s van to make home deliveries to 43 people on the program. 
 Hoffer and Smith, however, say there are many more in need but choose not to sign up for various reasons. If they did, the senior center could be quickly overwhelmed and, quite possibly, unable to meet demand or keep the lights on.
 “It just amazes me that the senior center still owes that much on its mortgage after 13 years,” said senior center patron and past volunteer Steve Cooper. “There has to be something that can be done, but the first step is letting people know the position we are in.”
 The hope is to get ideas from the community at large. Currently, the senior center is asking for donations specifically to help pay down the loan. Other ideas include a GoFundMe page, which administrators are currently looking into. 
 “If anyone has any ideas on how we could get this loan paid down, we are, of course, more than open to listening,” Cooper said. “The future of this center may depend on it.”
 For more information or to find out how you can help, call the center at (208) 414-0750.


Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718

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