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Published: Thursday, 5/25/2006

Funds are sought for senior center and food pantry

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Several local officials have pledged to keep their eyes peeled for funding opportunities to pay for a new senior center and food pantry that would be connected to an elementary school in Jerusalem Township.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) recently joined the Lucas County commissioners, several state representatives, Oregon school officials, and authorities from the Area Office on Aging of Northwest Ohio at the Jerusalem Township Food Pantry, 9501 Jerusalem Rd., to see how it operates.

Food-pantry officials had invited them to ask for their support regarding the plan to build a $1.4 million food pantry and senior center onto an elementary school, said Bill Hoops, a township resident and a food-pantry director.

"We wanted them to come and see our operation and get them involved and as enthused as we are," he said.

But what they need is money. The Area Office on Aging has pledged to cover half the cost, and the food pantry has received some cash and labor donations. But that still leaves a little less than $700,000 left to find.

Mrs. Kaptur is working on ways to find local funding for the project, officials from her office said.

After talking with several of the other authorities, Mr. Hoops said many planned to work to find grants or other ways to get them the rest of the funding they need for the building, which would be constructed alongside an addition Oregon school officials plan to build onto the Jerusalem Elementary School, 535 South Yondota Rd. near Sacks Road.

The school district broke ground for the addition on Monday, but more funding needs to be pledged or raised to break ground on the food pantry and senior center, Mr. Hoops said.

"Our hope is that we get all this stuff straightened out so we can proceed," Mr. Hoops said.

He said he and the other five food-pantry directors have been working to get a new facility in the township for several years after outgrowing the room they have for the food pantry and after seeing a need for a senior-citizens center in the township.

And the unique situation of being connected to an elementary school would give the opportunity for seniors to volunteer to tutor students struggling with schoolwork while students could return the favor by teaching seniors computer skills they learn in class.

The nearest facility serving township residents is the James "Wes" Hancock Senior Citizens Center in Oregon.

To get the project off the ground, the Rural Local Initiatives Support Corp. donated a one-time grant of $8,000 for pre-development costs late last year.

Some of the funds went to the Buehrer Group, a Maumee architectural firm, for preliminary drawings of the building.

If the plans come to fruition, the center would have a large meeting room that could double as a space for the food pantry, and would contain several rooms for senior activities, like crafts and exercising.

Mr. Hoops said officials hope to break ground on the building late this summer.



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