Southwest senior center to close in June

Volunteers of America says decision was forced by 50-percent cut in United Way funding

About 24 seniors participated in the Southwest Center's adult day program. File photo
About 24 seniors participated in the Southwest Center's adult day program. File photo

EAST HARRIET — Volunteers of America–Minnesota and Wisconsin plans to close its Southwest Minneapolis senior center in June after a 50-percent reduction in funding from Greater Twin Cities United Way.

The closing of Southwest Center would directly impact about 24 seniors who participate in Southwest DayElders, the center’s adult day program. The center also employs five full-time staff members.

Hundreds of seniors interacted with Southwest Center each year. It offers exercise classes and wellness programs, social work services, a computer lab, a donation-based food program and a monthly food shelf for those aged 55 or older.

The center, located at 3612 Bryant Ave. S. in the East Harriet neighborhood, will close no later than June 30, according to a statement from the organization released Thursday.

In that statement, Paula Hart, president and CEO of Volunteers of America–Minnesota and Wisconsin, said, “We came to this conclusion very reluctantly and after careful consideration, since we received the disappointing news from United Way in late April. The Center has been a ‘home away from home’ for many older adults for 41 years.”

The center celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2016. Volunteers of America took over operations in 1999.

This spring, facing a $6 million shortfall in its Community Impact Program, United Way made cuts in its funding for about 130 local agencies. Annual funding for Volunteers of America was cut in half, to $150,000 from about $300,000.

Although Volunteers of America–Minnesota and Wisconsin reported annual revenues of more than $45 million in its 2016 fiscal year, it leaned on United Way funding for a “large portion” of Southwest Center’s operating expenses.

“The loss of this support created an unsustainable long-term funding gap,” the non-profit organization reported.

Greater Twin Cities United Way President and CEO Sarah Caruso described the funding cuts announced in April as “heartbreaking” decisions. While the organization exceeded its 2016 fundraising goal, more donors are asking for their money to go to specific programs, leaving a shortfall in the flexible funding pool that funds multi-year grants to agencies like Volunteers of America, Caruso explained.

United Way cut grants to social services programs 9 percent. It also responded to the shortfall with an 11-percent budget cut, achieved primarily by reducing staff and freezing executive salaries, and by drawing down $1 million from its reserves.

Caruso said cuts in its funding for agencies like Volunteers of America ranged from 5 percent to 100 percent depending, in part, on how closely aligned their programs were with United Way’s core mission.

“We are really focusing on families and children as our key strategic priorities going forward,” she said.

Volunteers of America owns the Southwest Center building, but a spokesman couldn’t say yet what the organization planned to do with the property after the senior center closes.

Browse , ,
  • Angie Renee

    The closing of Southwest Center does directly impact about 24 seniors who participate in Southwest DayElders, it impacts them greatly. Those 24 seniors come to the center to be with others, they have created great friendships with each other and treat each other like family. They come to this center for many reasons and now they will have to find another place to do and lose their community in the process. Though there are other people that are directly impacted by the closing of Southwest Center which you failed to mention. Those people include other older adults in the community that come to the center to also have people to socialize with, they come to learn from the various classes that are offered. Classes in music, art, art history, exercise programs and an amazing mindfulness class that is taught each week by one of the DayElders. Beyond the people that come to the center to take classes the people who teach those class are also being impacted as we are losing our beloved community as well. Then there are the community volunteers, many who take time out of there day to work one on one with a senior assisting them in one of the many art classes that have been offered. Or the volunteers who have come together to create the beautiful mosaics that are housed in various locations around the neighborhood. It also impacts the many children who have been involved with the intergenerational programs that have been offered and the home school family, which got involved and got to know the seniors of this great place, and consider them their friends. Then there are the family members who entrusted their loved ones to this place to keep them safe, entertained, fed and loved, those families are now greatly impacted by this decision to close the center. One last group, you did mention, but I also want to mention again, is the staff who always went out of their way to make everyone feel loved and important, who worked tirelessly to keep the center fun and interesting for those who walked in the doors. So, I just want to mention ALL the folks that are impacted by this closure, most of all it is the 24 DayElders, but many many more as well.
    Sincerely Angie Renee

  • JDO1947

    I’m willing to bet that the community and businesses around 36th and Bryant will step in, It’s that kind of neighborhood, wish I never left!

More in News