Modern Maturity Center in Dover loses $120,000 in state grant-in-aid funding, while Milford Senior Center grant is cut $41,000 and Lewes Senior Center loses $25,000

Senior centers statewide are scrambling to find money to cover the General Assembly’s reduction of funds to nonprofits.

The annual budget signed July 3 by Gov. John Carney cuts grants-in-aid to all nonprofits by 20 percent compared to the 2017 fiscal year.

Senior centers are among them. They rely on the grants to balance their budgets. Administrators from senior centers in the First State are planning to cover the shortfall by holding fundraisers. Some are considering raising membership fees.

Modern Maturity Center losing $120,000

Modern Maturity Center in Dover is one of the hardest hit. The center now has to deal with a $120,000 cut, said Carolyn Fredricks, president and chief executive officer.

“We aren’t cutting services. We aren’t cutting hours. We are planning a fundraiser every month and we are hopeful to get the community to support services [for senior citizens] by coming out to the fundraisers,” Fredricks said.

She describes the cut as “major,” but she hopes fundraisers will cover it. However, if the state cuts the grants-in-aid again for 2019, it would be “catastrophic,” she said.

One new fundraiser is Friday Night Fry Up. It will feature fried fish and chicken from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 15 at the center.

A different theme is coming every month through December 2018, which is something new, she said.

On Thursday, Aug. 17, people at Modern Maturity Center reacted to the cut in funding.

Dover’s Janice Baker admits she’s steamed about it. “I come here every day, and I volunteer here and I do Meals on Wheels,” she said.

“These cuts are hurting. They’re hurting this center. They mess up everything people have planned and count on here [such as] the Meals on Wheels, the CHEER Center, all of the nonprofits,” she said.

Johnny Revers and Dorothy Wall like to come to the center to chat and have their lunchtime meal.

Revers is sanguine about the center’s future, giving credit to Fredricks for salvaging as much as possible. “Carolyn worked hard to get us what she was able to,” Revers said. “We’re happy we got what we do have. It would have put a lot of burden on a lot of people.”

Todd Hilliker is one of many volunteers delivering Meals on Wheels every day. He’s worried cuts could cost jobs at the center and result in cutbacks of the lunchtime program that brings food to those not otherwise able to prepare it themselves.

“Hopefully, no one will go without,” he said.

Middletown center funds cut $55,000

In Middletown, the aid reduction is almost $55,000 at the M.O.T. Jean Birch Senior Center’s annual budget, said Cecilia Rozumalski, executive director.

Center officials don’t know if they are going to raise the membership fees or not, but they are considering it, Rozumalski said. The fee is $15 a year.

“We are looking at everything. The board [of directors] is taking a measured look at every budget line item we have and services we provide,” Rozumalski said.

The center will have more fundraisers and she hopes the senior citizen community and businesses will support them to cover the shortfall, she said.

“We are going to try to not cut services. We just don’t know,” Rozumalski said.

Milford center seeking grants, donations

The cuts have also affected the Milford Senior Center.

Daphne Bumbrey, the center’s executive director, said they have lost $41,000 a year. The center isn’t closing, she said.

“We are working to make up the difference through finding grants and creating more fundraisers and asking for donations,” Bumbrey said.

The organization will be sending letters to the community asking for donations, she said.

Milford Senior Center is looking to the Longwood Foundation and Crystal Trust charities for grants. As for fundraisers, a senior prom and a Second Street Players dinner theater are in the works.

Lewes center's grant-in-aid chopped $25,000

The Lewes Senior Center has lost $25,000, said director Dennis Nealen. The center's leaders arelooking at raising its membership dues, he said, from $20 a year.

Nealen described the center as financially stable. The main programs won’t be cut, but the center may have to do without some “extras,” Nealen said.

“We aren’t eliminating anything at this point. But we are definitely feeling it. [We] will do more fundraisers. We are doing more [bus day] trips,” he said.

The center already provides day trips, paid for by those taking the trip. But the center will have more to raise money, he said. So far, the center hasn’t made plans for more fundraisers.

Newark center hikes membership fee

Meanwhile, the Newark Senior Center faces an $89,000 shortfall.

According to the center’s newsletter, membership will cost $33 a year, effective immediately. It’s the first time in five years the membership fee has been increased. “This will help put a small dent in this funding challenge,” the newsletter said.

Staff will do without a cost of living pay increase and will pay more for their healthcare benefits.

“We will be trying to do more small fundraisers and socials throughout the year with the thought that every little bit helps,” the newsletter said.

Jeff Brown contributed to this story.