Supporters rally to save OTR Senior Center

Photo: Over-the-Rhine Senior Center Facebook page
Photo: Over-the-Rhine Senior Center Facebook page
Updated: Nov. 19, 2018 at 5:29 PM EST
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OVER-THE-RHINE, OH (FOX19) - Supporters are rallying to try and save the Over-the-Rhine Senior Center on Race Street.

“The Over-Rhine Senior Center has been a part of Cincinnati Area Senior Services (CASS) programs for over 30 years. It saddens us all to announce the closing of the center located at 1720 Race Street at the end of November,” reads a letter from its CEO, Tracey Collins.

They plan to continue offering meals and transportation for seniors at Church of Our Saviour, 65 E. Hollister St. in Mt. Auburn.

So far, 366 signatures have been gathered to try to keep the building open.

The non-profit is closing because they lost all city support in 2015 for programming, according to Collins' memo. The city owns the building, but CASS pays for all operating costs.

“Last year we lost 50 percent of our United Way Funding for this program, and we anticipate additional cuts this year,” she wrote. "The cut last year left us with the problem on how to sustain the center. We have applied for various grants and shifted our program model to keep the center open but either those grants were not awarded to CASS or funding was no longer available.

“Unfortunately, we cannot sustain a brick and mortar building and staffing with limited funding,” her memo goes on to state.

"At this time, our funding is based on the number of meals we serve each day. Yes, this is a critical center for the 70 meals we serve, but it does not provide the income to keep our doors open. This decision was difficult to our staff and Board. Unfortunately, we do not have the reserves to sustain the loss over time.

“It is our commitment to provide services to the seniors in the city, and we are grateful to the Church of Our Savior for allowing us to share in their space.”

In a memo to Mayor John Cranley and City Council, Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney said the city’s human services funding priorities follow the recommendations of the Human Services Advisory Committee.

“Both the Untied Way and HSAC follow the priorities/initiatives set by City Council,” he wrote. “The Administration does not choose what specific organizations or causes receive funding in a given budget.”

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said in a tweet he was “very troubled” to hear the OTR Senior Center was closing.

“Trying to quickly get all the info and help,” he tweeted Thursday.

Sittenfeld said there are options. One, moving the Senior Center to the OTR Rec Center. All they need he said is a kitchen inside the building.

“This is a wake up call about making sure seniors and care for seniors is prioritized," Sittenfeld said.

In the meantime, the senior center would stay open and the city would foot the bill.

“My hunch is, my strong hunch is that a majority of the elected leadership -- the budget setters -- would say, ‘We can bridge the gap to get from today through when that retrofitted kitchen would be complete,'" Sittenfeld said.

Sittenfeld reiterated that not everything is finalized, just preliminary ideas.

He did add that the CEO and Chair of Cincinnati Area Senior Services will tour the rec center Tuesday.

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