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WHILE THE RICH GET RICHER, THE ELDERLY AND THE POOR GET POORER “What Closing Senior

Centers Can Do To Our Elders”
It is disgusting to read in the local newspapers and see on television that most corporations are thriving with the biggest profits realized in recent history making it possible for them to give millions of dollars in bonuses to their CEOs at the expense of the less fortunate, especially the elderly. The Dallas Catholic Charities, a non-profit corporation, two weeks ago announced that the Marillac and Brady senior centers, which they fund and operate, are slated to be closed in June and a new center will be opened in the Deep Elam area to serve the affected seniors from the those two centers. The reason given for the closings is economics, a nationwide trend. The City of New York New York has announced the closing of 105 senior centers because of budget shortfalls. While the seniors at the Marillac and Brady centers are grateful and appreciative of all that the Catholic Charities has done for them over the years by financing the operations of the centers, they are devastated with the news that their center will be closed because, among other things:      the new center where Catholic Charities wants to send them to is too far; for most of the seniors the centers are the only source of entertainment in their lives; seniors depend on the services provided by the centers and some are afraid that they will end up in nursing homes; some will stay home and watch television to keep their mind busy and avoid becoming vegetables; these centers are the lifeblood of many of the seniors. Their activities for the most part include: dancing; health – blood pressure testing, bp and glucose and hearing screens; group activity such as cooking, gardening and sharing moments; games such as bingo, bridge, canasta and dominoes; exercise; arts and crafts; and, miscellaneous such as table tennis, computer classes and trips.

Hoping that the community will come together and find a solution to the problem and keep them from going into an isolated lifestyle a group of Marillac seniors a week ago approached La Voz del Anciano (The Voice of the Elderly) board to request its help to find a way to keep the center open and/or to find an interim facility allowing the city and west Dallas residents time to come up with solutions including the exploration of building of a new center in their community. La Voz del Anciano board chairman Gil Cerda responded by appointing me to chair a committee, with Sylvia Lagos’s (former La Voz executive director) assistance, to help keep the Marillac center open. While the seniors were devastated with the news of the closing of Marillac, they are non-the less are determined to see this thing through and the next day over 100 of them turned out at the center to as usual socialize, dance to DJ music, eat a meal of Chicken Alfredo and homemade cake and took time to pray to their God. They asked Him to give them the wisdom,

the strength; perseverance and the will that they will need to prevail and turn this tragedy into a blessing. It is indeed an honor and privilege to be a part of such an effort. A committee, most of them LULACers was established and the next day met with twenty five (25) seniors from the Marillac center and began brainstorming solutions. A Marillac committee was established and co-chairs were elected. The first order of business of the two committees was to begin planning a town hall meeting of Marillac seniors, service providers, community leaders and elected officials. City councilwoman Monica Alonzo and county commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia immediately joined that effort, one that calls, among other things, meeting with the catholic bishop to convince him to intervene on behalf of the Marillac seniors and talk to Catholic Charities to reverse its decision to close the Marillac center. Preliminary indications are that the community will come together and while it may not succeed in keeping the Marillac center open, the city’s Zaragoza and/or Anita Martinez recreation centers will more than likely take up the slag until a permanent facility is secured. It is hoped that the Dallas Area Agency on Aging will provide funds for senior meals, the Dallas Senior Source Agency will provide training, and La Voz del Anciano will help with program coordination and advocacy. And that the Mayor’s Senior Affairs Commission will provide the support that the committees will need. In the meantime it is hoped the seniors will continue to turn out at the Marillac center to socialize, dance to DJ music, and eat hot meals such as the Chicken Alfredo and homemade cake they ate Thursday. And that they will continue to pray that their God asking Him to give them the wisdom, the strength, perseverance and Will that they will need to prevail and turn this tragedy into a blessing. In the meantime we will look forward corporations as those that I made reference to in the opening statement of this letter to have a change in heart and reestablish their priorities and give the elderly the consider that they merit.

Sincerely, Richard Sambrano, La Voz Del Anciano Marillac Closing Assistance Committee Chair Josefina Avalos, President, Marillac Social Services Maria Garcia, Marillac Senior Citizens Committee Co-Chair Maria Rivera, Marillac Senior Citizens Committee Co-Chair