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Commentary: Costa Mesa Senior Center provides a service to its community

January 24, 2014|By Charlene M. Ashendorf

On Jan. 7, the city released a report of an audit of the Costa Mesa Senior Center, which was dated Nov. 27. Sharing this for the first time during the Jan. 7 council meeting caught the community by surprise. What came as more of a surprise was the resignation of two council appointees to the board, as reported in the Daily Pilot ["Senior center headed for 'fiscal crisis,'" Jan. 7] .

In response to the city's $26,500 audit, I believe the center board and community deserve time to adequately review and respond to recommendations. The manner in which this was handled has placed a shroud of doom over program delivery, day-to-day operations and fund-raising efforts, and ultimately this is negatively affecting the seniors.

Having attended the board's executive meeting Jan. 14, I know that many concerns were expressed about the report, including the allegation that staff and the board made the obtaining of information challenging. Staff and board members maintained that this was not the case and that information and interviews were handled as requested.

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In my opinion, to print a report without the opportunity for board and staff to review it in a draft and respond immediately puts the group in a unwarranted, defensive position.

Many of the recommendations will have costs attached to them, including seeking accreditations and affiliations and conducting a community survey of seniors. Who will incur these costs? I contend that the center operates with best practices and high standards.

The senior center is a service to the senior community. Transportation, health and well-being, education, nutrition, socialization and the arts are quality-of-life issues for our city's older population. The recommendations to restructure dues and memberships can cause a burden on the senior community and stifle their participation, especially in this time of economic uncertainty.

I read an analysis of the nonprofit industry that says growth in giving will be minimal in the next year, but an agency with a sustainable mission, engaged and supportive directors and good programs will do well.

This is how I see the Costa Mesa Senior Center and its supporters. I stand in support of the center. However, the city may have other ideas if the recommended added position of an assistant CEO/administrative services director will in part include oversight of the senior center.

CHARLENE M. ASHENDORF lives in Costa Mesa.

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