Helping hands reach out
Woodburn Senior Center Director Connie Lum reached out in search of assistance for her group last week, and while she did not necessarily find what she sought, she did find help.
Lum was direct and up front when she spoke before the Woodburn City Council on Monday, June 24.
"I'm here for money," she said directly.
Lum presented the panel with a ledger itemizing the 3 1/2 – year old center's finances, along with a modest wish list that included a TV, computer, refrigerator with a freezer, a desk, printer and additonial space.
She imparted that a vehicle to transport members would also be helpful.
"Basically, over a 5-year period I would like $100,000. I think that's very reasonable and workable and necessary for the people who don't have the prosperity or the goods or other (resources available)," the director said.
Mayor Eric Swenson and the councilors listened to the pitch.
Councilor Robert Carney told Lum that the current design the city is considering for a proposed new community center has features that serve senior citizens.
"We've been through two iterations of designing the community center," Carney said. "The first one…was essentially a sports facility. This council and the council before us felt that was inadequate; that we weren't paying attention to the seniors in our community."
That led to the second plan, which included features that appeal to seniors, like a full kitchen and meeting room. The council also created a steering committee, the Community Center Advisory Committee, later in the meeting.
Carney urged Lum and Woodburn Senior Center members to join the process and, perhaps, even serve in advisory roles.
Other councilors communicated that they are sympathetic, but the city does not have funds for separate entities like the senior center. They appealed to City Manager Scott Derickson to explain.
"In the past the city has looked at funding requests from community organizations, and we've passed on those for a couple of reasons," Derickson said. "One is, we want the organizations to be successful, but we also want to keep the city out of trouble.
"So granting programs of this nature would have to be openly competitive, because it's public money," he continued. "We have to set certain standards for financial accountability; we have to have contracts for funding that have assurance of compliance and reporting; organizations would have to have anti-discrimination languages and practices. Things that we are held responsible for as a public organization."
Derickson went on to explain that the extensive checklist creates a burden that most organizations can't meet. Consequently, the city has not budgeted for such grant funds.
Derickson did outline potential ways to uncover help, as did Councilor Lisa Ellsworth.
"The policy has been to try to support community organizations with service, and with support of in-kind donations," Derickson said, pointing to the wish list items as examples.
Lum revealed other obstacles that the senior center has encountered, and described the benefits it brings to members – the smiles it brings to their faces.
"I'm appealing to you to rethink not helping us," she pled. "But if it's your choice, it's your choice. And we'll live with that."
Ellsworth recommended another tack.
"If you want to contact me personally, I will work with you," she advised Lum. "I have a history of raising money (for) programs and looking at some other solutions. I think, like Scott pointed out, there are a lot of other avenues…"
"I'm looking at your wish list, and, I'm with Scott, with the connections that some of us have, I think we could probably get your wish list, except for the car," she added.
Woodburn City Council did not convene on Monday, July 8, as in observance of Independence Day weekend.
The next council meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Monday, July 22, in the Woodburn Police Department Community Room, 1060 Mt. Hood Ave.