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OTR Senior Center Staying Put For Now

Jay Hanselman
Seniors enjoying lunch Wednesday at the Over-the-Rhine Senior Center on Race Street.

The Over-the-Rhine Senior Center will continue to operate at its current location on Race Street for the time being.
Officials with Cincinnati Area Senior Services (CASS) and Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld made the announcement Wednesday at the center.

Sittenfeld will ask City Council to make a one-time $50,000 grant to the center for operating expenses.  Officials hope they'll be able to use that money to leverage additional funding. The center needs about $100,000 a year for its operation.

In addition, the city will sell CASS the building at 1720 Race Street for $1. And the city officials will review whether it can make any capital improvements to the facility to reduce the operating costs at the building.

"By giving them control and ownership of their own home, it will catalyze and galvanize other folks in the community to step forward and say, 'We want to do our part' to help make this a permanent arrangement," Sittenfeld said.

Clifford Beasley said he's glad the center won't be moving or closing.

"This is a home away from home," Beasley said. "It's camaraderie, and if we would have had to give this up, it would have been like, man I'm lost."

Last year, the OTR Senior Center provided more than 17,000 meals and more than 500 hours of programming for nearly 150 adults.

Center Director Cheryl Ware had tears in her eyes as she thanked everyone for making sure the facility will stay open.

"I couldn't do the job that I do if they weren't here," Ware said. "We're family and we take care of each other and support each other."

CASS announced earlier this month that the location could close soon because there wasn't enough money to keep it going. The plan was to bus seniors to a similar facility in Mt. Auburn. But some people who use the OTR Center, including community members, objected and started looking for a solution.

Last week, Sittenfeld announced a plan to merge the senior center with the nearby OTR Recreation Center. But after CASS officials reviewed that facility they decided there were "design and build-out limitations."

The OTR Senior Center received city money in the past. But it lost those dollars when City Council changed the funding focus areas for the city's human services funding. The center also lost a significant amount of money it had been receiving from the United Way.