Senior center’s state funding not taken for granted

The Steppin’ Seniors perform Thursday at the Community Education and Health Fair at the Modern Maturity Center. (Delaware State News/Andrew West)

DOVER — Some notes and quotes between headlines, deadlines, and an interesting day at the Modern Maturity Center Thursday …

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There seems to be a sigh of relief ahead for Delaware’s nonprofits, including Kent County’s Modern Maturity Center.

Funds lost in the legislative budget battle last June appear to be returning.

Lawmakers took 20 percent away from nonprofits in the grant-in-aid package at the end of the General Assembly.

As you might recall, there was even discussion of cutting grant-in-aid entirely last year as unusual Delaware politics played out and nonprofit groups gathered in huge numbers outside Legislative Hall to protest.

The senior center’s president and CEO, Carolyn Fredricks, said Thursday that it has been a challenging year, overcoming a $120,000 drop in state funds for her organization this fiscal year.

“It affected us a great deal,” said Ms. Fredricks. “It’s pretty hard to make up a $120,000 loss.

“We decided we were not going to lay off any staff, we were not going to cut services. We were just going to try to get the community to rally behind us and do what we need to do.”

She said the Modern Maturity Center has been holding fundraisers every month — everything from Friday night fry-ups to dinner shows and concerts.

Other Kent County senior centers were not able to carry on as usual. Some reduced hours or closed additional days. Some cut staff.

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The grant-in-aid bill for the current year is $37.2 million, down from $45.9 million the year prior.

The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee will meet Tuesday to review the Fiscal 2019 grant-in-aid bill which provides funding to senior centers, fire companies, veterans organizations and others. As you have read in recent editions, the state revenue picture is much brighter.

“I think you are going to see a 20 percent restoring across the board,” said state Sen. Brian Bushweller, D-Dover, who serves on the Joint Finance Committee.

That will be welcome news to Ms. Fredricks.

“I’m praying for it,” she said. “We need it because this demographic is the fastest that there is. People are aging in place, they’re moving to Delaware, and we want to be able to be here and service those people. We need our full funding to accomplish that.”

The organization also had to make up $10,000 in lost funds for mileage reimbursements for Meals on Wheels volunteer drivers this year.

In an issue separate from grant-in-aid, the Meals on Wheels program, operated in Kent County from the Modern Maturity Center, was facing an $850,000 shortfall due to federal cuts. State legislators have agreed to meet that burden.

‘“I’m very passionate about the Meals on Wheels program,” said Ms. Fredricks. “I have been here for 45 years and my very first job here was with the nutrition program. I started in 1972 as volunteer, then a year later of coordinator of social services for nutrition program. That became my love, my passion.

“If you tell me you’re going to take money away, I’m going to fight you for it.”

The Modern Maturity Center and Meals on Wheels, Ms. Fredricks said, has a huge impact, one that she cannot imagine the state taking on.

“Every day, not necessarily coming in here, we’re going to touch the life of 3,000 people a day,” she said.

The Modern Maturity Center has a staff of 225 and 850 volunteers, said Ms. Fredricks. Membership is about 15,000.

The Meals on Wheels program delivers more than 1,100 meals each weekday.

To challenge some recent city of Dover discussions about fees for nonprofits, she studied Meals on Wheels’ impact and costs for staff, food and transportation.

“To home deliver meals in Dover zip codes, the value is about $1.1 million a year,” she said. “That’s got to have some value to the city of Dover.”

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Sen. Bushweller said there has been discussions about how grant-in-aid should be handled in the future.

“If there’s a bigger picture issue, it is whether it is right that we treat grant-in-aid recipients so much more cavalierly than we do regular state agencies,” he said. “There was never a time when we just cavalierly cut 20 percent out of an agency’s budget.”

One idea pitched this year is a new legislative committee to provide grant-in-aid oversight, taking that burden off the Joint Finance Committee, which also weighs the operating expenses for all state agencies.

“The other big issue it raises is, ‘Do we demand enough accountability from all of the grant-in-aid recipients?’ There is not a lot of accountability in the system,” said Sen. Bushweller. “A lot of (the nonprofits) tell me that and they would welcome that accountability.”

Currently, the only follow-up required with grant-in-aid funds is information for the next year’s application, he said.

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Many thanks to the Delaware State News readers who stopped by our table at the Community Education and Health Fair Thursday at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover.

It is always interesting to hear about reader habits and what they like most about their newspaper.

One reader shared a story about how she recognized signs her husband was dealing with a stroke when he was having some difficulty with the Wonderword puzzle.

Another mentioned how macular degeneration was making it difficult for her to read the print product. She turned to an iPod for a new way to read the Delaware State News and has really been enjoying it.

We signed up a few new subscribers, too, and we hope they enjoy getting the newspaper each morning.

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Happy birthday to the lazy, lasagna-eating cat on our comics pages.

Garfield just turned 40 years old.

A few days ago, Parade Magazine published a few of Garfield’s memorial lines:

“Love me, feed me, never leave me.”

“Oh no! I overslept! I’m late! For my nap.”

“Eat every meal as though it were your last.”

“If you are patient…and wait long enough…Nothing will happen!”

“The most active thing about me is my imagination.”

“With due respect to Will Rogers, I never met a lasagna I didn’t like.”

“I hate Mondays.”

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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