Seniors’ programs find new home after YWCA closing

ajames@newsobserver.comOctober 12, 2012 

— A new program opens Saturday for more than 150 seniors left adrift after the abrupt closure of the YWCA – the place they went for food, fellowship, craft-making, and most importantly, friendship.

The Gathering Place church will be the home of the Active Older Adult Program to serve seniors displaced by the closure of the YWCA, as well as anyone else in the Southeast Raleigh community over age 55.

An open house to celebrate the start of the program and to gauge interest in it will be Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the church, 3500 Woodmeadow Parkway in the Walnut Creek subdivision. It is free and open to the public.

The day the Hargett Street YWCA shut down without warning brings back painful memories to those who had relied on its daily programs.

Esther Allen, 73, refers to that pivotal day, Feb. 29, as the day “everything went bad.”

A member of the Triangle Golden Oaks program, Allen had gone to the YWCA for 10 years, every day of the week.

“We were one big family and they tore us apart,” Allen said. She talked to her friends in the program occasionally by phone, but she had little contact with anyone outside her home. She was hospitalized twice.

“I thought I would not see my friends anymore,” Allen said. “I gave up.”

Percell Dobbins, also 73, said there were hints that the program was not doing well.

“I remember when they stopped offering snacks to us, (and) then they took away our transportation,” Dobbins said.

But she hadn’t expected her whole routine to change overnight. She won’t forget that Wednesday in February when tearful YWCA employees gave her the news that the facility would be closed the next day.

But that’s about to change as The Gathering Place Active Older Adult Program takes up the baton.

“This will allow them their own space for at least a couple hours a day to mingle with other older adults in the community so they can thrive as active older adults,” said Olivia Mudd, a former employee at the YWCA who lost her job when it closed.

A member of The Gathering Place, Mudd will be helping Eloise Best, the former director of senior programs at the YWCA, oversee the new program. Both are donating their time as volunteers.

The program will offer health and wellness activities, craft-making classes, and trips to “keep them as active as possible,” Mudd said.

Seniors who would like to take part are asked to make a monthly donation of $20 to support the program, as they were asked to do at the YWCA. If they are unable to pay, they will not be turned away, Best said, adding that 35 people already have signed up for the program.

“We are looking for community sponsors to make this program possible,” she said.

For seniors like Esther Allen, this is an answer to a prayer. Even though she was just released from the hospital, she said she’ll do whatever she has to do to make it to the event.

“I’ll go on Saturday if I have to be carried in,” said Allen. “I have missed my friends so much.”

James: 919-829-4870

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