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Senior center seeks sponsorship, money from city or county

The continued operation of Port Orchard’s Givens Senior Center will be the topic for a town hall meeting this Saturday, during which participants and lawmakers will meet to plot a course for the facility.

“The county recently stopped providing support for the center because it moved the employee in charge to the Fairgrounds,” said South Kitsap Commissioner candidate Tim Matthes. “They aren’t getting any help with getting the necessary grants and have lost their support structure.

“The purpose of this meeting is to give the people who use the center a chance to speak out and tell us what they need,” Matthes said.“We want to start a dialogue. This is a wonderful group, but they need direction and sponsorship.”

The most obvious candidates for sponsorship are the city and the county, but both have so far declined to take on the responsibility. The county is in the middle of a budgeting process where wholesale cuts are required.

The city is taking a larger view, and has considered taking over the entire operation of the facility

“We told the county that we might be interested if we could come to terms,” said Port Orchard Mayor Lary Coppola. “But they haven’t gotten back to us.”

“The building carries a lot of baggage,” said Senior Center President Joan Kaul. “The county owns the building and the city owns the property. But neither one has been able to offer us support.”

Even with the undetermined asbestos content and need of repairs, the building has an assessed value of $3.6 million.

Kaul said the programs will always be volunteer driven, but paid staff help is necessary for organization, fundraising and grant applications.

The Givens Center was first built as a hospital during World War II and was converted into a grade school after the war.

When Sidney Glen Elementary was built in 1990, the county took over Givens and has used it in varying degrees ever since.

Even as assorted county offices have moved to other locations, the senior center has been a constant presence.

Now down to 240 members from a high of 600, the center has provided a variety of activities that have been supported by the county.

“Most of our members are in their 70s,” Kaul said. “We would like to get some people in their 50s, but there’s nothing to attract them.“

As county support has waned, beginning after a 2002 budget cut, the services have been in jeopardy.

“We’re not going away,” said Kaul. “But we could do so much more if we had some support. Look at what they do in Bremerton, and on Bainbridge Island, where the city provides sponsorship.”

Kaul said she has appealed to both Kitsap County and the city of Port Orchard, and has been told that no funds are available.

“It’s all about where you set your priorities,” she said. “We’re always being told there is no money, but other things get funded. We think it’s important that seniors have some support, that they are not forced to sit in their homes feeling lonely and depressed.

“We have all voted and paid our taxes for years,” she said. “We deserve better that what we’re getting. And look how long it’s taken them to do something for the veterans.“

The meeting on Saturday will be moderated by Matthes and North Kitsap Commissioner candidate Sandra LaCelle. Both are Republicans, but Matthes claims it is not a partisan event.

“Anyone can attend,” Matthes said. “I will extend personal invitations to (Port Orchard Mayor) Lary Coppola and all the sitting commissioners.”

Matthes doesn’t expect to extend a personal invitation to his opponent, Charlotte Garrido, “but she can come if she wants.”

The meeting will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. on Oct. 11 at the Givens Community Center in Port Orchard.

For more information contact Kaul, at (360) 871-2117, or joannick@wavecable,com.

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