February 16, 2011

Seniors: No need for new center

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- While Derry might not have a designated senior center, that doesn’t mean the town is lacking in resources for the over-50 crowd, said town officials and residents at a meeting on Tuesday.
The Town Council hosted the workshop in lieu of its regular meeting Tuesday to discuss the needs for a senior center in Derry.
Derry Recreation Director Eric Bodenrader and Human Services Administrator Jill McLaughlin compiled a lengthy list of current senior programming and resources available in town, which they breezed through at the meet­i

“I don’t think any of us realized exactly how many opportunities we have in this town,” said Councilor David Milz. “It sounds as if our only problem, as opposed to places like Salem and Meredith, is just that we have them spread out all over the town in different facilities. I don’t think that’s a bad thing at this point in time.” 
The Nutfield Senior Center Corporation had been working for about 10 years to bring a senior center to town, only recently abandoning those efforts after finding limited town and private funding. The group had secured some grant funding toward the project. 
Corporation president John Moody said he could not attend the workshop meeting, but a letter he sent to the town was read aloud. 
“Given the state of the economy, it is apparent to us that we would be unable to fund such a project privately and consequently we will discontinue our efforts as a private entity,” wrote Moody, in a letter read by Council Vice Chairman Neil Wetherbee. “That being said, the corporation is willing to commit a substantial part of our remaining grant to support any effort that the town is willing to undertake.” 
Members of the East Derry Village Improvement Society told attendees Tuesday that their recently renovated Upper Village Hall could help to expand senior programming in town. 
David McPherson, vice president of EDVIS, said the group has been talking with the directors of the Rockingham Nutrition and Meals on Wheels program about a potential move from the Marion Gerrish Community Center to the Upper Village Hall. He said the group is also working with a local community health organization to pursue a new wellness program on site. 
But Richard Benson, who spoke on behalf of the Marion Gerrish Center, said the center didn’t want to see the Meals on Wheels program leave. 
“Meals on Wheels, as they are now located in our facility, are very dear to us. We like the people, and we like to see the folks come in and be served there every day,” Benson said. “... We do not have an agenda here tonight other than to learn and to examine and to be a part of what is ultimately going to happen in Derry, but we want you to know that we are an essential part of the community, and we’re very proud.” 
McPherson said he thinks the Upper Village Hall and the Marion Gerrish centers could both provide essential senior programming without detracting from each other. 
“I hope that the Town Council and others, as they’re looking forward to fulfilling the needs of the community, realize that it’s very possible that multiple facilities instead of just one could be best suited to serve the community as a whole,” McPherson said in an interview after the workshop. 
But when it came to discussion of an entirely new facility, seniors in the audience were strongly opposed. 
“We don’t want a senior center,” said Derry resident Elaine Connors. “We want to stay where we are and whatever money you do have, we want to have put back into the Rec, the Marion Gerrish or the Alexander-Carr (park), because that’s where it belongs.” 
Eva Strandnes said: “We’re very happy down at Vet Hall. We think Eric (Bodenrader) is doing a good job, and we don’t want to leave.” 
Councilor Janet Fairbanks suggested that a senior survey be distributed outside polling places next month to get a sense of what Derry residents are looking for. 
“The gist of what I’m hearing tonight is that they’re not really interested in having a facility erected for them, so maybe a survey would help us see what they would like us to do,” she said. 

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