Saving the Senior Center

Stage Two Begins

Ashley Hunter
ECB Publishing, Inc.

At the beginning of this year, the Jefferson Senior Citizens Center (JSCC) alerted the Jefferson County community to the looming financial crisis that the center was facing due to $30,000 of indebtedness that the center had found themselves in.
Along with the accumulated debt, the senior center had not brought in enough income during 2017 to cover the year's expenses, and government funding had slacked, leaving many senior centers around Florida to face a future of financial insecurity.
After presenting these problems to a receptive community, the indebtedness was retired by April of this year thanks to fundraisers, fish fries and monetary donations from people and businesses in the community.
To that regard, former JSCC board member and special category manager of the center's funds and fiscal foundation Len Dodson expressed a heartfelt thank you to those individuals, businesses, churches and civic groups who stepped forward to pay off the wave of debt that threatened to drown Jefferson County's senior center.
But the work is far from over.
“We will depend on the citizens once more to step forward,” said Dodson during a meeting with Monticello News on DATE.
The first problem – the debt – has been taken care of, but the second problem – the deficient in income due to a lack of funding at a state level – still remains. Unless the center can reach financial security and cover the approximately $3,000 gap needed, all the work put in by the community to keep the center afloat will eventually be wasted.
“None of the funds raised for indebtedness have gone to daily, weekly or monthly operations,” Dodson stressed. Any funds that had been given to them that were considered 'extra' were put into a security fund to only be used in the event of an emergency.
Stage 2 of Dodson's center-saving plan will focus more on the long-term sustainability of the senior center, rather than a way to quickly pay off the debt.
The second stage will depend on the citizen's once more, as the center will begin requesting sponsorships, or 'pledges' from community residents, businesses, and groups.
“This is a necessity to build a fiscal continuity for day by day operations,” said Dodson.
The pledges will come in four tiers and each will last a year:
Gold: $100 a month for 12 months.
Silver: $75 a month for 12 months.
Bronze: $50 a month for 12 months.
Copper: $25 a month for 12 months.
In order for the center to be sustained, they will need to receive 50 Gold Tier pledges, 50 Silver Tier pledges, 50 Bronze Tier pledges and 200 Copper Tier pledges.
“We need all of those to sell out. That's a total of 350 pledges,” said Dodson. “We would like an enthusiastic community response, as they came forward in the first emergency.”
The pledges are open to any who would like to promise their sponsorship to the center; be it a church, a civic group, a business or individual.
Alongside their plea for pledges, Len Dodson is working on other fronts to help the center reach sustainability, such as contacting national-level businesses that have locations in Monticello and requesting to be included on their contribution lists; writing to Gov. Scott and alerting him to the floundering status that the recent funding ruling has put the centers around Florida; requesting that the city council and county commission prioritize the JSCC in their budget; contacting Veteran Affairs and requesting a partnership between the JCSS and Tallahassee VA that would allow the center to take on the clients that the VA handles in Monticello; and bringing business into the center.
Through renting out the senior center facilities to reunion groups, community events and civic club meetings – something that the Monticello Rotary Club has already taken their offer on – the center hopes to bring money into the center's day-to-day budget.
“We have no magic plan to build that fiscal responsibility,” said Dodson. “I want to emphasize the necessity for once more, and hopefully for the last time, that we solicit the community to step forward.”
“Our thanks goes to the Monticello News and the ownership of the papers that gave us pro bono advertising and are continuing that generosity for this program,” added Dodson. “It was the spontaneous response of the community that responded to the newspaper that retired the indebtedness, and we are thanking them in advance for their loyalty to sustain this.”
If you or your church, organization or businesses would be interested in adopting one of the required pledges, you may do so by contacting the Jefferson County Senior Center at (850) 342-0242 or contacting Len Dodson directly at (850) 997-4543.
In conclusion, Dodson also wanted to alert the many people, businesses, and groups that helped pay off the center's debt to the fact that certificate of thanks are being prepared and an Open House Thank You ceremony at the senior center is being planned.