Wallingford Senior Center’s Soup Line Fundraiser

Special to The SunBreak by Matt Mason.

MTM Photography: Jensen, 2, does her part at the Wallingford Senior Center Fundraiser on November 19.

Thursday night at the Wallingford Senior Center was of special importance to the community life of the Wallingford neighborhood. The “Brother Can you Spare a Dime” a soup line fundraiser for the Wallingford Senior Center was a great success. But it was only the beginning.

The Senior Center has already cut back to one daily staff member, who happens to also be the executive director of the Center, Kathleen Cromp. Faced with the big picture and the daily details she describes the last few months as a roller-coaster. This event is a hopeful step in developing the grass roots support that the center needs to recover from this closure and restart full programming in the new year. Faced with old debts and a lack of operating funds the Center’s Board of Directors is developing a sustainable model it hopes to implement if the community and financial support can be secured.

The fundraiser was sponsored by the Wallingford Community Council and the Chamber of Commerce, along with over a dozen local businesses. Selena’s Guadalajara donated tortilla soup, Chutney’s Bistro provided the mango lassi, and Trophy Cupcakes satisfied the sweet tooth with a tower of mini-cupcakes. Local bluegrass band Lost in the Fog also donated their time to perform.

All of the businesses involved and the dozens of volunteers at the event believe in this cause and based on the turnout, the people of the community are beginning to see the value as well. Part of the evenings program allowed a few minutes for people to share with the gathered audience.

Wallingford resident and ex-mayoral candidate Joe Mallahan came out in support along with City Council Member Tom Rasmussen.

Rasmussen spoke for a few minutes to the packed hall calling this a “wake-up call to our community” he noted that what makes the difference in the success or failure of a center is the community spirit behind it. He emphasized the need for the Senior Center as a way to “help older people stay independent and in their homes,” saying it provides a framework of support and a second family to help fulfill the needs of community members. Rasmussen concluded by adding this is “insurance for our future.”

Ralph Moser stood and shared his experiences at the Center. He and his wife, Nancy, felt instantly at home four years ago when they received their personal tour of the facility. This introductory tour is something provided for all new members. He and his wife have a short five-minute drive to the Center, which has lots of easy parking. They take part in yoga, general exercise, and current events. They also are sure to attend the lunches, spaghetti dinners and monthly Sunday pancake breakfast. He commented on the programs saying, “It’s no big deal but it means a lot [to us].” He has developed many very dear friends and feels a stronger tie to the community through the Center.

Johnathan Cohen had a multi-generational story to tell of his family’s connection to the Center. He came to the Center for the first time with his kids and their grandparents when he was in the midst of a separation. They attended a spaghetti dinner and “found great solace here.” From that day on he and his family remained regulars at the center. When his daughter, nine-year-old Vera, heard of the closing she said, “Poppy, we got to do something to save the Senior Center. Grandma and Grandpa love it so much, and so do I.”

Several members of the Board of Directors laid out what was needed in order for this neighborhood treasure to restart and sustain successfully. Although donations and support have been growing it has not been nearly enough yet. Some large donors have come forward but many of them are wanting to be assured of operational sustainability and more importantly the level of commitment the community has to the success of the Center.

The City also has assured the Center that some funds are secured for next year, also contingent on the Center being able to restart successfully. The key is community: It is neighbors standing up and saying this is important and I’m willing to support it with my time, energy and finances. Every dollar helps along with calls and letter to the City Council and Mayor’s office.

The Center has made a request for one-time lump sum funding from the city to pay off a chunk of dept and late payroll. This will help make the restart more viable and attract more large donors. In order so show your support for this funding please contact any or all of the members of the City Council.

Energy and ingenuity are the other important tools that the Center needs from you. Cromp spelled out a need for volunteers to make sure the Center has a base of manpower available for a restart. Also, she wants community ideas for new and improved programs to better serve the senior, and wider, demographic of the neighborhood.

If you have an idea for the center, she wants to hear it. So please, let’s make a difference, take a stand, and say our future and the future of all the young and old in our community is a priority. We quite literally cannot afford to lose this priceless community resource.