Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Senior Center of Clearwater will close in September

CLEARWATER — The five friends gathered around the wooden table for their biweekly game of pinochle at the Senior Center of Clearwater. But before they could shuffle the first deck of cards, they received sad news from Robert Wittenberg, the executive director of Senior Citizens Services Inc.

"I wanted to let you know, in September, the center will close,'' said Wittenberg, 69. "But we are not abandoning you. We will do everything in our power to relocate you wherever you'd like to go because we value your participation.''

The friends were silent for a moment, gathering their thoughts.

"Well, they do have card games where I live, at Top of the World,'' said Viola Browning, 68. "But I've made a lot of friends here.''

The others nodded.

Citing a shift in the community's needs and a belief that its money could be better spent, the board of directors of Senior Citizens Services Inc., a foundation that survives in large part on donations, will close its Senior Center at 1204 Rogers St. on Sept. 15. The foundation will then move its administrative office, including its referral service, to Prospect Towers, its affordable senior housing community at 801 Chestnut St., where it will turn its primary focus to supporting the residents there.

The foundation is financially sound, but over the years the number of visitors to the center has continued to decrease, Wittenberg said.

"It costs $200,000 a year to operate in this building, so the board determined it was time to change directions,'' he said. "Really, the reason for the closing is almost exclusively due to the diminishing level of senior participation from the community in our programs.

"Times have changed. There's the Aging Well Center for Clearwater, the Hale Center for Dunedin and Largo's very active community center. We are no longer the only place for seniors to go.''

For many years, the private Senior Center was part of a large Senior Citizens Services campus at 940 Court St., which also included a consignment store and a tour department that generated about $500,000 each year.

"In our heyday, we had 5,000 seniors travelling with us, so it was a good revenue source, but when 9/11 happened, the travelling (slowed), and we decided to close the department,'' Wittenberg said.

Soon after, the board of directors decided to downsize, moving to the current location.

Along with its games and social activities, the center is known in the community as a clearinghouse, a place to get information on issues such as housing, transportation and consumer problems, and computer skills. People can even borrow medical equipment.

And for groups such as the pinochle players, it has been a favorite place to socialize. Mary Heckenbach, 92, shook her head when she heard the news. "Some of us have played cards together since 2001,'' she said. "I don't know what I'll do. Sit home and cry, I guess.''

Janet Hannah, the leasing consultant at Prospect Towers, is looking forward to the foundation's arrival.

"I'm sorry that the neighborhood is losing the center, but it will be good to have them at Prospect Towers,'' Hannah said. "For example, I understand they're bringing computers, and I know our residents will use them.''

When Clearwater City Manager Bill Horne was told that the foundation will move into Prospect Towers, he applauded the decision. "Prospect Towers is a community of seniors of which many are not very mobile or have limited mobility,'' he said. "It's a significant community that will participate and take advantage of activities offered.''

And the city invites those who feel a void after the closing to participate in some of its senior programs nearby, said Kerry Marsalek, manager of the city's Office on Aging. Along with the Aging Well Center, the city holds programs at the North Greenwood and Clearwater Main libraries, the North Greenwood Recreation and Aquatic Center and the Ross Norton Center.

"But I also want to acknowledge the impact the Senior Center has had in the city. It is remarkable,'' she said. "We appreciate all the work the senior citizens center has done over the years.''

Contact Piper Castillo at pcastillo@tampabay.com. Follow @Florida_PBJC.

Senior Center of Clearwater will close in September 07/24/14 [Last modified: Thursday, July 24, 2014 11:27am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pitching on no rest backfires for Erasmo Ramirez, Rays

    The Heater

    ARLINGTON, Texas — After battling through a 61/2-hour affair Sunday in Minnesota that was the second-longest game in franchise history, Rays officials were quick to decide that even though Erasmo Ramirez had just worked the 15th and final inning, they would stick with him to start Monday's game in Texas.

    Erasmo Ramirez, starting a day after closing a 15-inning marathon, struggles against the Rangers, comes out after throwing 43 pitches in 21/3 innings.
  2. Britain investigating missed signals over Manchester bomber

    World

    LONDON — Britain's domestic intelligence agency, MI5, is investigating its response to warnings from the public about the threat posed by Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in an attack at a crowded Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last week.

    People gather Monday at St. Ann’s Square in Manchester, England, to view tributes to victims of the suicide bombing that killed 22 on May 22 as a concert by Ariana Grande was concluding.
  3. Trump condemns killing of pair who tried to stop racist rant

    Nation

    The mayor of Portland, Ore., on Monday urged U.S. officials and organizers to cancel a "Trump Free Speech Rally" and other similar events, saying they are inappropriate and could be dangerous after two men were stabbed to death on a train as they tried to help a pair of young women targeted by an anti-Muslim tirade.

    Coco Douglas, 8, leaves a handmade sign and rocks she painted at a memorial in Portland, Ore., on Saturday for two bystanders who were stabbed to death Friday while trying to stop a man who was yelling anti-Muslim slurs and acting aggressively toward two young women. From left are Coco's brother, Desmond Douglas; her father, Christopher Douglas; and her stepmother, Angel Sauls. [Associated Press]
  4. What major sporting event could Tampa Bay land next?

    Lightning Strikes

    We are on quite a roll as a community. First, we had a Super Bowl drop from the storm clouds into our lap. It just reaffirms the fact that Tampa Bay is great at lap. And Monday it became official: Next year's NHL All-Star Game will be held at Amalie Arena. The best in the world will be here to shoot and score. And …

    MVP Wayne Gretzky is congratulated at the 1999 NHL All-Star game, the last time the event was in Tampa Bay. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times file]
  5. How the 2018 NHL All-Star Game reflects Jeff Vinik's vision for Tampa

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — There were several reasons the NHL announced Monday that Tampa will host the 2018 All-Star Game on Jan. 28.

    This was the  logo for the 1999 NHL All-Star game played Sunday, Jan 24, 1999 at the Ice Palace in Tampa Bay. (AP Photo)