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After Bout With Junior League, Seniors Press Ahead

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The news has come as a shock to the 300 or so seniors who use the facility. But rather than pine for the old center, many of them seem to be setting sights on a new one, without the current board of directors, staff or the headaches of the past year.

"One wonderful thing that's come out of this is that we've banded together," says Annebel Lewis, a member who is on a task force charged with finding a new location. "We're not giving up. We're going to have our senior center."

The Monument Avenue programs terminated in June after a last-ditch fund-raising effort failed to muster enough support, says Ian Nimmo, chairman of the senior center's board. The lack of funds is also forcing the closing of the county location, he says.

"The dissolution of the senior center will greatly affect the lives of over 400 area older adults" — most of whom use the county site, Nimmo says. The center offers a variety of programs, ranging from health care and exercise classes to organized outings.

The center's bleak forecast recently reached a critical point because of a standoff between the senior center and the Junior League of Richmond, which helped establish the center. They disagreed over who would control proceeds from the sale of the center's site at 2710 Monument Ave. The property is worth about $1 million.

The center had hoped to use the money to move into a new facility within city limits that would be more efficient to operate and be more accessible — with ample parking and wheelchair ramps.

The point of contention between the two organizations was a "reverter" clause in the deed that stated the property, if sold, would revert back to the Junior League. The league established the center in 1959 and purchased the land and building on Monument Avenue in 1967 for nearly $46,000. The senior center fought the league's claim that it still has rights to the property — and lost, says Beth Clifton, development and volunteer coordinator for the center.

Soon Clifton and her handful of colleagues will be out of a job. The center will officially shut down July 19, after its annual grandparents' day celebration. Meanwhile, seniors are hoping the community will rally behind their efforts to find a new facility.

Lewis and the task force are seeking seed money and support. She's confident her group will get it: "We're not senile, we have brains. And if I were a politician, I sure wouldn't want to be pissing off the seniors." S



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