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Atascadero Senior Center faces financial struggles 

Among the many activities and resources the Atascadero Senior Center provides for older community members, a fan favorite is Bunco night. Members gather to play the fast-paced dice game once a week.

"I got hooked on Bunco, so I'm in there with the little old ladies rolling the dice every week," John Crippen said with a laugh.

The Senior Center provides its members a place to socialize and play games like Bunco, have an affordable meal through the Meals that Connect program, and find supportive resources. But Crippen, who volunteers as the center's office manager, said the center is struggling to make ends meet. He launched a campaign on April 1 asking for community donations.

click to enlarge LOW ON FUNDS Office Manager John Crippen said the Atascadero Senior Center is an old building that needs a lot of updates—one of the reasons why he launched a call for donations from the community. - PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN CRIPPEN
  • Photo Courtesy Of John Crippen
  • LOW ON FUNDS Office Manager John Crippen said the Atascadero Senior Center is an old building that needs a lot of updates—one of the reasons why he launched a call for donations from the community.

"The [senior center] was built in 1948," Crippen said. "That's where some of the difficulty is. Maintaining the building has been a real struggle. It needs a lot of work."

He said the roofing needs to be replaced and the floors need to be redone, among other structural improvements.

"It's also about $1,900 a month to keep the place running," Crippen added. "We're run by volunteers. Most of the other large cities in SLO County get assistance from the city. Atascadero won't help us, which is really difficult."

Atascadero Deputy City Manager Terrie Banish said the city receives many requests from nonprofits for funding, which is limited.

"Due to these funding limitations, the city is not able to accommodate all of the requests for programs like the Senior Center," Banish said. "The Senior Center has been in place as a nonprofit since 1974, and they have provided programs to its members through volunteers and an organized board."

Crippen said the pandemic made things harder, as the center was forced to shut down during COVID-19 surges. It lost both volunteers and members.

"People get disheartened from the shutdowns and some of them don't come back. ... We're having to almost start from scratch to recruit volunteers," Crippen said. "We've lost a lot of members to [COVID-19]."

The center is asking the community for help to combat its dwindling reserves. Crippen said he sent out mailers to hundreds of local businesses asking for donations so the center can keep providing its important programming.

"One of the primary contributors to things like dementia is lack of socialization. We provide all kinds of opportunities to socialize. We have tai chi, a movie group, the Bunco, occasional arts and crafts," and more, Crippen said. "Services wise, beyond the groups, we have a resource binder: [For] people looking for housing, if they're having trouble with Social Security. At no cost we loan out assistive equipment, wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers."

If community members are inclined to send a donation, Crippen said the Atascadero Senior Center's address is 5905 East Mall, Atascadero, CA 93422. He also encouraged anyone who's interested in volunteering to reach out at (805) 466-4674. Δ

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