Volume 80, Number 52 | May 26 - June 1, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Greenwich House plans to acquire Caring Community

By Muneeza Iqbal

For the past three years The Caring Community has been facing financial problems. At first, the organization lost two of its contracts, including Meals on Wheels. Now Greenwich House plans to acquire The Caring Community’s three senior day centers in Lower Manhattan, including two in Greenwich Village. Discussions on the acquisition have been underway for more than a year, and administrators are hoping to make the transition by July.

The Caring Community was founded in 1971 to provide services to local seniors, notably day programs where they participate in activities and get meals. Partly due to budget cuts by the city, the organization lost one of its senior centers, at First Presbyterian Church on Fifth Ave., last year. The city only gives limited funds to senior centers, so they have to find private funding, which has proven a difficult task given the economic situation in the past couple of years.

As one of the co-founders of The Caring Community, Greenwich House feels obligated to help out, according to Roy Leavitt, its executive director and C.E.O. Administrators’ main concern has been the decrease of services for local seniors if The Caring Community were forced to cut back, or close.

Being a bigger organization, Greenwich House can handle the costs of acquiring three senior centers, as well as running its own — which serves about 100 members — without facing any cutbacks.

“We want to make sure that there are no disruptions in service so that the seniors don’t feel the change at all,” said Leavitt.

Arthur Makar, executive director of The Caring Community, said that its contract for meals, classes and social services from the Department for the Aging will be passed on to Greenwich House. He reiterated that the transfer would not affect the 300 seniors at the three centers.

However, seniors at the Judith White Senior Center at Greenwich House are concerned about their facilities. They have been informed that at the upcoming budget meeting, it will be proposed to replace their hot, homemade meals with catered food to cut back on costs. The meals at The Caring Community are catered, and Greenwich House seniors complain they do not want to suffer the same fate.

“We get real chicken, real fish. They have never seen a fish that’s actually been in the ocean!” said Roberta Kopper, a senior at Greenwich House who has tirelessly led a petition effort to prevent this change. Currently, she has collected about 225 fellow seniors’ signatures in support of her effort.

Leavitt, however, says that this switch in food service is just a proposal, and that the administrators have still not met to discuss whether it will be cost efficient and still of good quality.

“This is a terrible time for a nonprofit, and no one wants to take away anything from these people,” he said.

In addition, The Caring Community will also be giving up its contract for Westbeth Artists Housing to Greenwich House. The organization had a full-time social worker on staff at Westbeth who helped retired residents with financial, legal and other issues.

Ironically, in early March 2004, The Caring Community was exploring taking over Greenwich House’s senior center and moving it from its current location at Greenwich House, 27 Barrow St., to a new location, possibly St. Joseph’s Church on Sixth Ave. Contracts for city funding were then coming up.

At the time, Lester Bates, the then director of Greenwich House, told The Villager, “We’ve been requested by the Department for the Aging to compete for the funding for the program because our specialty is running senior centers — we’ve been doing it for 30 years — and Greenwich House specializes in a host of other wonderful programs.”

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