Trena Palmer has been a social worker for 30 years, so she understands critical needs in a community. She understood, too, why the United Way sought to serve those needs first when it announced funding cuts last week.
But as executive director of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Senior Centers, Palmer also knows the byproduct of that emphasis.
This morning, Palmer announced that Mecklenburg's four senior centers need to raise $100,000 in two months. If the center falls a little short of its goal, services to seniors - including educational classes, plus health and wellness programs - will have to be cut.
If the fundraising falls short of $66,000, the North Mecklenburg Senior Center in Cornelius would likely be closed.
That $66,000 figure also is the amount United Way cut from its support to the senior centers - a 30 percent drop in funding. Add in some reduced grant money, and the center is down $100,000, about 10 percent of its operating budget.
"It's going to be tough with these economic times," Palmer says. "We're going to dig in and do what we have to do."
Palmer says the senior centers are looking for big donors, but they also are counting on people to give $25 and $50. "A lot of donors think, 'Well, if I can't write a $1,000 check, it won't do any good,' " she says. "But if 1,000 people give us $50, we're halfway there."
The senior center already has frozen staff salaries and benefits, and some educational and exercise programs have already been trimmed. Such cost-cutting is happening at agencies across Mecklenburg - especially with programs that serve youngsters and seniors, many of which were among hardest hit by the United Way cuts.
"I completely understand why United Way did what it did," Palmer says. "I think most agencies do."
But, she says: "The needs are still out there."
To donate to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Senior Centers, write Save the Center at 2225 Tyvola Rd, Charlotte, NC, 28210 or give money on their secure web site: www.cmseniorcenters.org.