Questions regarding an uncertain future have swirled around the Newton senior center in recent weeks. As rumors of a potential closure were floated, Grand Central Director Leslie Runnalls made it known that the organization is, in fact, on pretty solid ground.
"So far, we're fine. We were in the black at the end of last year and through the first six months of 2017 we're in the black," Runnalls said. "We're still alive and doing fine. We're like all nonprofits; we're always looking for more funding."
For Grand Central, the focus of that funding has centered on much-needed repairs to the building's heating and cooling unit. That has generated a lot of investment since the beginning of the year, but Runnalls said the cooling system is good to go for the rest of the summer (though it is an issue that will be readdressed once the heater is turned on in the winter).
Recently, Grand Central held a Country Fair fundraiser at the end of June to help raise money for that cause — with a great deal of success. With great weather aiding the turnout, Runnalls noted the event seemed to be a hit for all involved.
"I think it's been one of our biggest fundraisers in some time," Runnalls said. "We just tried to make something that we felt would be fun for the community and everybody seemed to enjoy it."
Hosting that fundraiser is not something the organization would have taken on if it were closing, Runnalls stated, adding that Grand Central has no intention of going anywhere.
Currently, the senior center is exploring a partnership with the Newton Recreation Commission to make the most of the space at both buildings. Runnalls pointed out that some groups at Grand Central (like line dancing) are already using the NRC facilities and the senior center has approached the NRC in order to maximize the reach for both entities.
"We just feel like our programs, together, provide the kind of services and programs that we think older people want," Runnalls said, "on staying healthy, staying active, educating ourselves as we age on what we can do to live well, live longer and stay in our homes as long as we can."
NRC superintendent Brian Bascue said the organizations are at the "front end" of this potential partnership, with discussions beginning in earnest at the NRC's last board meeting on June 29. Conversation of a partnership will continue at a joint meeting of board members from both organizations on July 20.
Zeroing in on how a partnership can best serve members of both organizations is a goal moving forward, according to Runnalls, and she sees a clear future for Grand Central in Newton, especially with 75 to 100 individuals using the senior center for various activities each day. So, for Runnalls, the focus remains on adding services that match the needs and interests of local seniors — whether wellness courses with the NRC or art classes through the Carriage Factory Art Gallery.
"I just see a bright future of trying to keep incorporating things that we think are a benefit to us as we age," Runnalls said.
For more information on Grand Central, visit the organization's Facebook page.