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Senior centers in need of funding

WORTHINGTON -- With attendance at many of the small-town senior citizen centers dwindling, representatives from the Nobles County Senior Concerns Committee (SCC) addressed financial issues with the county's board of commissioners Tuesday morning.

RSVP program coordinator Joanne Bartosh joined Gerald Mulder in asking the county for assistance.

"What the answer is we don't know," Bartosh said. "We felt as a committee we needed to come before you. Maybe you have some resources for us. Maybe within your district you will be able to help them."

Rising fuel, maintenance and utility bills are making it nearly impossible for senior citizens to meet their monthly expenses to keep the centers operating. Bartosh said surveys regarding concerns were sent to eight communities in Nobles County that have senior centers, and five were returned.

In Dundee, the main concern centers upon the community's plan to install a new sewer system. Seniors are worried about the cost -- several thousands of dollars -- that they will be forced to pay for the improvements made to their center, housed in a Nobles County historic site. The center boasts an average daily attendance of 10 seniors, said center volunteer Jerrie Magnussen.

Adrian endured costly utility bills last winter, with some months averaging about $400. Fortunately, the City of Adrian has paid $200 per month toward the utility bill, and it has increased funding for this winter, said Regina Honermann. Yet, with only 25 members attending the center, located in the historic Slade Hotel, covering the cost has been a challenge.

Joyce Habbena said that in Ellsworth, the city has offered to help pay some of the costs for fuel at the center, which serves an average of seven members. Still, she said, electricity and insurance expenses have to be covered as well.

Commissioner David Benson encouraged the SCC representatives to inquire about utility rate adjustments for non-profits and suggested looking into alternative programs such as off-peak or on-demand heat for the winter. Commissioner Diane Thier also suggested maybe they could look at getting some funding through pull tabs, a fund-raiser present in many communities.

"Senior centers are supported a lot by the cities," Mulder said. "We're kind of asking for the county to help."

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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