Shocked by senior center closing

In response to your May 18 online article, “Southwest senior center to close in June” (appearing in print on page B8 of the June 1–14 Southwest Journal), I am writing shocked by the Volunteers of America (VOA) management team for their hasty and shortsighted decision to dismantle a vibrant senior and neighborhood community and saddened by their minimization of the work done and people served at the Southwest senior center.

As a Center supporter, I know from my own experience its closure will impact hundreds of seniors, not just the 24 cited by VOA. The closing stems from a $150,000 funding cut from United Way. While a significant loss, it does not track how that amount of money cripples an organization that employs five full-time staff people, maintains a building and provides programming for hundreds of seniors annually to the point of needing to close its doors.

Why the urgency? In one month’s time, VOA leadership learned of, assessed and determined to end the 41-year tenure of the center. There appeared to be options.

The center was scheduled to host a fundraiser on May 4. Strangely, the fundraiser was cancelled. What could have been retooled into a “save the center” moment was instead eliminated without any invitation to supporters to help address the cut. VOA is a large nonprofit with the breadth of budget that could temporarily absorb this funding setback or spread the cut throughout programs. Filling the gap does not seem a solution VOA leadership seriously considered.

What an incredible loss it will be for south Minneapolis when the center is closed. And what a shame that VOA is not acting as a champion for its own outstanding programs.

As a member of the community that values the mission and work of the Southwest senior center, I implore VOA management to pause, come together with its stakeholders and truly evaluate if a $150,000 funding cut needs to bring an end to this 41-year-old institution that is successfully serving our Minneapolis senior community.


Susan Hellstrom