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Empty days for seniors as day care closes after funds cut

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Teresa Sindab’s days will be lonely and a lot less interesting without Baskervill Adult Day Care.

Headquartered on the campus of Holy Cross-Faith Memorial Episcopal Church, the program is the latest victim of the economy.

After losing a huge chunk of its funding to state budget cuts, the program ended Friday, after more than 20 years.

By Monday morning Sindab, 88, a client of the day care since 1990, was already feeling its loss. She spent the day at home by herself, and said that’s how she’ll probably spend a lot of days without the center.

“I have no family here,” she said. “I have one niece by marriage, but none of my sisters are here and I never had any children. So I just have my church family and my senior citizen family at the day care.”

Without the day care program, she said she feels she’s lost part of that family. She’ll see one of her friends from the program at church on Sundays, but without transportation, she’s unlikely to see the rest, she said.

“I’ll miss them. They’re the best bunch of people I know,” Sindab said.

She’ll also miss the activities she and her friends enjoyed through the program.

Bingo on Mondays and Fridays was one of her favorites, though she also enjoyed shopping and devotions when area churches made visits.

Baskervill Adult Day Care was free for adults with limited mobility who are dependent on others for help with daily activities, such as walking, dressing and cooking.

Between eight and 15 people attended the program each day, traveling between home and the center in a Baskervill van, program officials said. And for many of the seniors, it was more than just a place to go and keep busy. It was a chance to enjoy life in a way they might not otherwise have been able.

The program’s end is “heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching,” said the Rev. Tommy Tipton, rector at Holy Cross and chairman of the board that oversees the day care program and St. Elizabeth Place, a HUD-subsidized apartment community for low-income and elderly residents.

Tipton delivered the news to clients and volunteers last week.

“Everybody’s sad about it, but I think everybody realized there was no choice,” he said.

“It’s not something we wanted to do. We fought awfully hard to keep this free program, but it was a decision that sort of made itself.”

The majority of funding for the adult day care program came from a five-year community block grant from the state Department of Health and Human Services. That funding was cut this year by 10 percent, then sliced again when the state issued an across-the-board reduction of 5 percent for all grants. The cuts totaled about $15,000.

The program took another hit when it lost $10,000 in funding from the Frances P. Bunnelle Foundation, also a result of the poor economy.

The cuts are nearly a third of the program’s $85,000 annual budget.

Tipton has already taken heat over the decision to end the program, he said. In angry calls from family members of clients he’s been accused of not understanding the value of the program. But Tipton said that’s not the case. He does understand, and that’s why he fought for the program, he said.

The board looked at other sources of funds, he said, and Tipton reached out to state officials, including the governor, but the economic climate makes money tough to come by these days, even for worthwhile causes.

He said fundraisers and other temporary means of filling the budget shortfall were ruled out, because the program needs a sustained source of support.

The reopening of Baskervill Adult Day Care remains a possibility, but Tipton said it’s unlikely. That decision will be made by June.

Tipton was working this week to find another program for the adult day care clients.

Betty Tucker, 78, a resident of St. Elizabeth Place, is sad about the closing of the day care center, but said she’s lucky to have friends who visit and take her places, so she’ll still have something to fill her days.

“I get out once in a while,” she said. “And I can walk about everywhere I need to go. I have to walk with a cane, but I’m not totally housebound.”

Still, she’d like to see the adult day care program brought back or another take its place.

“It was a good program,” she said. “We’d just talk and do handicrafts and little things. It was nice.”

The adult day care program operated with one 32-hour-a-week staff member, a part-time staff member and volunteers.

The two paid employees were laid off. Edie Duffy, the program director, also works as administrator for St. Elizabeth Place and will continue in that role.

Tipton said St. Elizabeth Place is in no danger of closing. “That’s not going anywhere. We have a good contract from HUD and a waiting list to get in,” he said.

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