Editorial: Pact hands over senior care center to trusted steward
By the Herald Editorial Board
It can be difficult to keep a lid on information, especially when it comes to good news.
Brian Smith, COO of Volunteers of America-Western Washington, said the nonprofit services organization’s president and CEO, Steve Corsi, recently returned from a national conference in the Midwest when he started talking to a couple sitting next to him. in the plane.
“He started talking to the couple on the way back to Seattle, and they knew about the VOA and somehow found out that VOA was in talks to take over the Carl Gipson Senior Center,” Smith said.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Everett Seniors Center had closed its doors to seniors in the community, suspending almost all programs that more than 1,000 seniors depended on. With the exception of a daily meal pick-up service that Homage Senior Services continues to offer, the center has remained closed since March 2020. The closure of the senior center was a major loss for those who visited. downtown to have their meals; exercise, arts and hobby programs; and coffee, cards and conversations, an interaction vital to the physical and mental health of the elderly in Everett.
While the pandemic was the immediate motivation for closing the center; the city – even before the pandemic – faced a persistent structural budget deficit that continues to force discussions about which programs and services the city’s revenues can support. The Carl Gipson Senior Center has been closed, with no certainty as to when – or if – it would reopen.
So even before the ink dried on a deal between the town of Everett and the nonprofit faith-based service organization to reopen and operate the senior citizen center, the VOA was hearing “excitement coming from across the country. Midwest to Seattle, ”says Smith.
“We have heard an overwhelming level of support and enthusiasm from the senior community to see a return to so much of the life that was lived there,” he said in an interview Monday.
VOA’s interest in running the Everett Seniors’ Center grew shortly after the pandemic forced the closure of the Sky Valley Senior and Community Center that VOA operates in Sultan for residents of County of east, Smith said. The loss of these services would be as serious for the elderly in Everett as it is for those in Sultan.
“We were keenly aware of the impact on our niche,” said Smith, “and being such a central presence in central Snohomish and Everett County, we knew that the closure of the Carl Gipson Senior Center would be of even more important for some 1,400 elderly people.
“We have a long history of serving Snohomish County as a whole and we felt it was in line with our mission of supporting the most vulnerable in the county,” he said.
While the VOA will run the Carl Gipson Center, the city remains a partner. It will retain ownership of the building and responsibility for major maintenance, and it will provide funding, a total of $ 1.8 million over the next seven years, allowing the VOA to establish long-term sustainable funding. through its donors, grant programs and other sources. .
The reopening of the center will be gradual and will depend on the precautions necessary to protect the elderly and others as the pandemic persists. But plans are already underway to launch programs remotely – pull on your sweatpants for Zoom yoga and tai chi – this fall, Smith said, to re-engage clients at the center as he prepares for a physical reopening of the facility next year.
And while customers can expect a return from their favorite activities, the nonprofit looks forward to receiving suggestions for new programs and services as well as partnerships with community groups.
The city and VOA leaders are also discussing off-peak partnering opportunities, said Cory Armstrong-Hoss, director of communications and marketing for the VOA.
“It’s cool to think of the possibilities,” said Armstrong-Hoss, who could include programs in the disabled-accessible facility for people with physical and developmental disabilities.
Programs could also be added to pair VOA’s early childhood and youth education programs with the elderly, Smith said, noting the multitude of studies that show the benefits of such engagements between children and adults. the elderly.
The agreement between the VOA and the city represents another transfer from a service or program that was once the responsibility of the city – and its taxpayers – to partnerships with nonprofits and others. government agencies as the city seeks to better balance income and spending and focus on its essential services, while ensuring past programs continue under the leadership of trusted new stewards such as the VOA.
This eventual transfer from the city to a non-profit organization also represents a transfer – but on behalf only – from taxpayers to community members, as the VOA seeks the financial and voluntary support of residents of Everett to maintain and extend the services available to Carl Gipson Senior. Center.
This responsibility for support shifts, but only from the tax return to the charity.
“We want to make sure that on the other side of this pandemic – which will happen at some point – that the center is back up and running and that we have the support of the community,” Smith said.
For more information on Volunteers of America-Western Washington and how to donate to support its programs, visit voaww.org.