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Faison Senior Center closes

JACKSON – The annual Home and Community Care Block Grant (HCCBG) was presented to the Northampton Board of Commissioners at their regular meeting here on Monday, July 1, but the allocations looked slightly different than years past.

The state-provided funds, which total over $305,000, are distributed to different organizations and county departments to provide a variety of services to Northampton’s senior population. This year, however, the J.W. Faison Senior Center will not receive any of the grant funds.

The nonprofit senior center located in Jackson shut down effective Friday, June 28. The decision was announced via their Facebook page on June 27.

Director Rebecca Stapleton stated in the online post “It is with deep regret that I must announce the closing of the JW Faison Senior Center. The Senior Center has struggled financially for many years now and with the loss of most of our funding it is impossible for the Center to continue as in the past. At this time the funding we will get is not enough to remain open.”

Stapleton noted the Center was founded in 1988 by the Rural Health Group. In 2005, it became a standalone 501c3 nonprofit organization. She said she remains a SHIIP (Seniors’ Health Insurance Information Program) volunteer for those in need, and upcoming center-sponsored trips to Myrtle Beach and Midway Casino are still currently scheduled to take place.

“I am very proud of the work we have done over the years. This is not goodbye,” Stapleton concluded her post.

Both Interim Northampton County Manager Robert Murphy and Office of Aging Director Joslyn Reagor confirmed to the News Herald that the Senior Center did not receive any local government funding due to their status as a private nonprofit organization.

“As far as I know, the county has never provided funding for the J.W. Faison Senior Center. They operated based on funds outside of the county,” Murphy said.

Reagor explained the Senior Center went through the annual process of applying for grant funding through the HCCBG program and the Rural Operating Assistance Program (ROAP).

Those grants require county commissioner approval, but are not composed of county funds.

During Reagor’s presentation to the commissioners on Monday night, she listed the different organizations requesting funds from the HCCBG. Those included the county’s Health Department ($50,000), the Lake Gaston Retirement Village Foundation ($5,000), the county’s Department of Social Services ($125,652), and the county’s Office of Aging ($37,100).

The $87,795 originally requested by the Faison Center was relabeled in the request as contingency funds. Murphy explained that change was a recommendation from the Area Agency on Aging, part of the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments, once they learned the Senior Center had shut down.

Murphy noted the Area Agency on Aging also recommended the commissioners go ahead and approve the grant funding so there wouldn’t be a delay for the other organizations in carrying out their senior adult programs.

Commissioner Geneva Faulkner asked if the Senior Center money could be reallocated right away to another organization, such as the Health Department, instead of being put into contingency first. Murphy answered that they could look into that possibility after getting in touch with the Area Agency on Aging again.

Faulkner motioned to approve the grant funding, and Commissioner Nicole Boone seconded. It passed with a unanimous vote of approval.

Board Chair Charles Tyner said they had only learned a few days before about the Senior Center shutdown.

“We want to make sure everybody understands that program was not a Northampton County program. That building does not belong to Northampton County,” Tyner explained.

“We’re investigating it right now,” he continued. “We’re going to do something about it. Just give us a few days to complete our investigation. Citizens, please note we do care for seniors.”

Boone echoed Tyner’s concern when she spoke at the end of the meeting.

“I stand with seniors as well. I was totally upset when I found out about it,” she said. “I wish that we would have known sooner that the senior center was in the trouble it was in.”

Murphy said they were looking into helping continue some of the services provided to the senior citizens who frequented the Faison Center. He said, for example, they would collaborate with the Area Office of Aging to continue providing Medicare Part D counseling as well as some transportation for a handful of dialysis patients who relied on the Center for that service.