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With the 2020 La Crosse city budget just around the corner, there was one noticeable item that was missing from the proposed budget. This is for any dollars to be allocated to support improvements to the Harry J. Olson Senior Center.

To this point, the city has been very generous in supporting the Center with an affordable annual lease payment as well as covering utilities and maintaining the grounds.

However, lately the message from City Hall is that it would not renew the lease, which is set to expire in December 2020, and close the Center, and/or move the Center’s activities to another location at a higher cost then it currently operates at.

After four years of negotiations, plans were in place in 2019 to set aside funds to make various improvements to the Center. However, those funds were later re-allocated to other projects and nothing was completed. Now that the 2020 deadline is drawing near, and the budget currently on the table for approval, the city has given no indication to the Center or its membership that there is a plan in place after 2020.

If the Center were to close abruptly, similar to what happened to the Southside Center, this would displace many members from our community and surrounding area.

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The Harry J. Olson Center has been very active throughout the years hosting an average of 600 people per week, stopping by to participate in a variety of events from senior meals to weekly dances.

Being a daily drop-in center, guests can have a cup of coffee, converse with other members, watch TV or participate in low- or no-cost fitness programs.

Other events include holiday parties, fundraising events, bus trips, card tournaments, play a piano or read a book from the library of books donated to the Center. However, these programs are in jeopardy without your support.

The Harry J. Olson Center is now calling on our senior community, future senior leaders and friends to the Center to reach out to contact their Common Council members, the mayor and city officials and let them know that they need to extend the lease for the time needed to develop and implement a plan to repair or replace the Center and put dollars back into the budget to make necessary improvements.

By doing this, we can keep the doors open and allow our seniors a place they can call their own for years to come. The city has recently received an award from the AARP as being a Network Age-Friendly Community, one of four communities in Wisconsin. We would like to keep the mayor and city heading in that positive direction of a community that supports their senior population. Put the Harry J. Olson Senior Center back in the budget for 2020. Thank you in advance for your Support!

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Marilyn Rudser is president of the Harry J. Olson Senior Center board of directors.

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