Milton Senior Center needs help to meet its budget

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Stacy Vogel
Friday, January 15, 2010
— The Gathering Place always will be connected to Marion Allen, the philanthropist who envisioned the senior center and paid for its construction in 1992.

But Allen died in 2007, and the community can no longer depend on her to meet all of the center’s needs, Executive Director Paula Schutt said.

“We want to preserve the gift Marion gave to the community,” Schutt said. “We definitely need the community’s help in doing that.”

That point hit home in mid-2009 when The Gathering Place, 715 Campus Lane, Milton, learned it wouldn’t be receiving a $25,000 grant that had been available in the past from the Allen Foundation.

“We found out in the middle of 2009 we weren’t getting it,” Schutt said. “That really kind of threw us for a loop.”

The center finished the year $50,000 over budget as a result of not getting the grant, other revenue declines and unexpected building costs, Schutt said. It has cut staff hours and is looking for new revenue sources to help balance its budget in 2010.

Many residents mistakenly believe the Allen Foundation pays all of The Gathering Place’s costs, Schutt said. Actually, it pays about $120,000 a year toward the center’s $250,000 budget. The rest comes from a variety of sources including membership fees, rental income, grants and investments through the Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin.

In the past, the center also has received a $25,000 matching grant from the Allen Foundation. A foundation official told Schutt the foundation wasn’t giving the center the grant in 2009 because it wasn’t being used the way the foundation intended, she said.

Schutt said she's working to improve communication with the Allen Foundation since taking over in 2008 after two directors came and went in three years. The Gathering Place still has a good relationship with the foundation, she said.

The center cut $25,000 from its budget this year, mostly by cutting staff hours, Schutt said. Its programming director and administrative assistant have gone from about 30 hours to 21 hours a week, and maintenance has been cut from 25 hours to 13 hours a week.

The center also is deferring some building updates, said Gene Wenham, board president. People still think of the building as new, but it’s 18 years old and needs some work, he said.

The board is looking for new ways to raise money. It’s considering hiring a professional fundraiser to put on a large yearly event.

“We’ve got to come up with better ways of (fundraising),” Wenham said. “We’re not the only ones that have this problem.”

The board is considering changing the membership structure to encourage more people to buy memberships. Currently, center users can buy memberships for $20 a year, but they don’t receive a lot of benefits besides knowing they’re supporting the center, Schutt said.

Next year, the center might charge more activity fees for non-members.

The board wants to encourage people to rent the center for weddings and parties and remember the center in their wills, Schutt said.

“We’d like to be on the radar when people start planning their financial gifts,” she said.

Last updated: 12:40 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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