MILLVILLE â€” It was a moment that Millville's senior citizens had been waiting years for. The town's brand new Senior Center opened in June of 2007 and, for the first time, there was a bigger, more modern space where they could get their blood pressure checked, participate in a knitting groups or exercise classes or get information about Social Security benefits.
Now, that same building is slated to shut its doors on Dec. 31 due to budget cuts and a decision by voters in June to reject two Proposition 2Â½ override ballot questions.
A Save the Senior Center fundraising campaign has been started by Millville Senior Club members with a goal of raising at least $15,000 to keep the center open through June 30, 2012.
The campaign has already begun and the Save the Senior Center committee has already contacted many of the same donors whose initial contribution made the dream of the Millville Senior Center a reality back in 2007. Last week, the Lesperance Family of Millville sponsored a Spaghetti Supper at St. Augustineâ€™s Parish Hall with all proceeds going to the campaign.
And there are more fundraisers planned.
On Saturday, Sept. 24, there will be a Giant Yard Sale at Memorial Park on Main Street, Route 122, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Refreshments will be available all day and all proceeds will benefit the Millville Senior Center. The rain date is Oct. 1. If you would like to donate items for the sale or if you need pickup of items, please call Pauline Cazeault at 508-883-4316.
The Autumn Revue, an evening of fun and entertainment, is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 15 at the Italian Workingmenâ€™s Club, 947 Diamond Hill Road, Woonsocket. A hot and cold buffet and raffles will round out the evening, with all proceeds to benefit the Millville Senior Center. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7 for children under 10 and may be purchased by calling the Millville Senior Center at (508) 883-3523.
Back in June, by a vote of 415 to 126, voters defeated Question 1, which had asked them to act on a $300,000 override to fund general government for fiscal 2012, which began July 1. By a vote of 382 to 157, voters also rejected Question 2, which asked them to act on a $100,000 override for the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District.
Had the overrides passed, it would have meant annual property tax increases of between $247 and $675 depending on a home's assessment.
Town residents actually approved two budgets at the Annual Town Meeting in May. The first budget was contingent upon the passing of the two override questions and totals $4,858,833.
The second budget totals $4,697,987 and took effect on July 1 after the override questions were rejected.
The difference of approximately $160,850 between the two budgets, includes, but was not limited to, additional funding of $100,000 for the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District; $30,000 for the Millville Free Public Library; and $20,000 for the Millville Senior Center.
As a result of the two questions being defeated at the polls, the Senior Center is only budgeted to remain open for six months, through Dec. 31, and will be forced to close its doors effective Jan. 1, 2012, unless another source of funding becomes available prior to that time.
Rejection of the override ballot questions also forced the Millville Free Public Library Board of Library Trustees to reduce library hours and services. Since July 1, the library has only been open to the public for six hours a week.
In addition, Library Director Lisa Cheever's hours have been cut down to four hours a week and the Library Trustees - which persuaded the town not to mothball the library building - are using donations to keep the facility open for patrons.
But the prospect of having to close the senior center, which is less than five years old, is painful for many of the town's older residents.
"Millville senior citizens waited a long time to have a building to call their own," says Millville resident Lois Salome, who along with other members of the Millville Senior Club started the Save the Senior Center fundraising campaign.
"After many years of hard work by many people, the new Millville Senior Center opened in 2007," she said. "Since then, it has been a valuable gathering place for our seniors and it provides many programs and activities for them. In addition, it has become a place where families and people of all ages can seek guidance about services and programs that can help them."
Salome called it ironic that the services and programs that seniors and families need most in tough economic times are the very same services and programs that will be cut off if the Millville Senior Center closes because of those same tough economic times.
"All the opportunity that the center represents will be lost and that loss will impact townspeople of all ages and send shock waves through the community," she said.
The Save the Senior Center fundraising campaign was started by Millville Senior Club members because state law prohibits Senior Center Director Carol Smith and members of the Millville Council on Aging from participating in fundraising events.
Salome says the goal of the Save the Senior Center campaign is to raise at least $15,000 to keep the center open through June 30, 2012. Salome says general donations to help save the Millville Senior Center can be made any time by making a check payable to the Millville Senior Center Save the Senior Center Campaign, 40 Prospect Street, Millville, MA 01529.
"The Senior Center does more than work for seniors," noted Smith." We process food stamp applications and have many services for younger people, as well. Losing the center would be a detriment. We have cut back as much as we can. I know money is tight, but some times you have to look beyond the dollar and look at the human side of it. I'm not from Millville, but when I came here I could see how much the seniors love this place. They deserve it."
In the meantime, financial donations to help keep the library open at least two days a week are welcome and can be sent to: Friends of the Millville Free Public Library, 169 Main St., Millville, MA 01529.