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Cutbacks & Sequestration Threaten Senior Citizen Program

FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) - Even though 100 or so people were seated around folding tables in the large room, the only sound audible was the clicking of small wooden balls in a hopper, as a man turned the attached handle to spin the hopper around.

The spinning finally stopped, a small door was opened and the man reached into the wire cage he'd been turning to retrieve one of the balls.
"O-73!" he said as loud as his aging throat would allow.

If you closed your eyes and imagined a social gathering for senior citizens this is the one that would probably come to mind. Dozens of white-haired seniors hunkered over BINGO cards, anxiously awaiting the next call of letter and number.

The scene at Handley-Meadowbrook Community Center is part of a city-wide program serving nearly 750 senior citizens. The non-profit organization is called Senior Citizen Services or SCS and they provide a lot more than just bingo.

"We just had a vision day on last month, where seniors were able to come out and get their eyes checked," detailed Tina Dawson, who runs the program at Handley-Meadowbrook. "[We had] flu shots. We just had a seniors living with diabetes program."

"It's my second home," longtime program participant Wanda Owens said. "We need a place to go and meet other people. Staying home and looking at the four walls is nothing."

But because of United Way cutbacks and sequestration, SCS lost $160,000 needed for staff. They turned to the City of Fort Worth for help.
"They asked for $160,000," explained Mayor Betsy Price. "And we just felt like we couldn't do that."

The city provides the community centers and money for transportation for the seniors program. But Fort Worth's budget is so tight that it was cutting police and fire positions in the last budget.

So, the city can only afford to give half of what the program needs: $80,000. They're hoping it will buy time for SCS to look for other funding options. "This will help get them through a difficult time and hopefully we'll work with them to try to find another model to help get those services delivered," Mayor Price said.

The SCS director says the money should keep them going until May. The hope now is that they'll find a winning solution for long-term funding before Summer.

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