Ellie DiScioscia resigning from senior center

Ellie DiScioscia

GLOVERSVILLE — The Senior Center Board of Directors will meet Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. to take formal action and to discuss how to proceed following the submission of a letter of resignation from Director Ellie DiScioscia, effective Sept. 20.

DiScioscia submitted the letter of resignation to Board of Directors President Tom Thompson on Aug. 29, but due to the Labor Day holiday falling on the board’s regular meeting date, action surrounding the resignation has not yet been taken. The board will meet at the center on Wednesday.

“Being the center director has been a great challenge. I came on as the director with the center having a $52,000 mortgage, thousands owed to back insurance and dropping numbers in participants. When I began here there were no programs, events, nor activities,” the letter reads.

In the letter DiScioscia notes that since her appointment in 2014 she helped eliminate the center’s mortgage and other debts through fundraising, grant writing and working with politicians to secure funding.

Additionally, DiScioscia wrote that she worked to develop programs and activities to serve the needs and wants of local seniors funded and supported by organizations, donations and grants outside of the senior center’s normal resources.

“I have donated a lot of my own personal time as well as a large amount of my own personal money into the center. I have done everything I can to help the seniors in our community and to assist the center in growth. My own family have been a very large part in volunteering their time to assist the center in its development,” she wrote.

While she expressed pride in her accomplishments over the years, DiScioscia described stressful working conditions due to criticism and conflict from some members of the Board of Directors that has also created disorganization as some members have pushed for the discontinuation or alteration of service related programs that DiScioscia created.

Ultimately, DiScioscia wrote that she will resign as of Sept. 20 “due to the lack of organization within the Board of Directors and lack of supplying what is needed for the center to move forward.”

Speaking on Thursday, DiScioscia said she has secured another position as a private nanny and plans to do other odd jobs part time while remaining active in some volunteer capacity in the community following her resignation.

“I’m going to be around the public, I’m going to be involved. I love helping,” DiScioscia said.

It was this spirit that initially led DiScioscia to volunteer at the senior center where she started a Saturday morning breakfast program offering food to seniors that she donated and prepared with the help of family and friends before she was offered the part-time director position in 2014.

“When I came on they were going to shut down, there were no programs,” DiScioscia said.

While she was admittedly inexperienced, DiScioscia said with the knowledge she gained while earning an associate’s degree from Fulton-Montgomery Community College and from being a lifelong city resident and community volunteer she did her best to develop programs to meet the needs of seniors and to overcome the center’s financial concerns.

“I wanted to stabilize the center to make it a place for community seniors to rely on,” DiScioscia said.

Given the large population of seniors in the city, who DiScioscia estimated account for roughly 65 percent of residents with about 25 percent of those individuals living at or below the poverty level, she focused on developing regular support programs along with organizing a variety of activities and events each month.

Existing programs include a Tuesday morning breakfast, Wednesday noon-time vittles, the continuation of the Saturday morning breakfast, a food pantry that is open during normal business hours and a clothing closet to provide seniors in need with new and gently used coats, hats, gloves, boots and sleepwear free of charge.

“I do a lot of supportive services. People weren’t coming in asking for cruises and trips, they were coming in to me crying, because they have cancer or they lost income and didn’t know how they were going to make it through the winter, so I went where the population I was serving was,” DiScioscia said. “They needed to be fed, they needed clothing, they needed to come in to talk to somebody.”

DiScioscia provides the programs during her 34-hour paid work week that she normally exceeds while volunteering her time to perform her job that includes organizing activities and events, caring for the building, overseeing rentals, developing programs and events, securing funding, supervising volunteers and more.

“I think the seniors are very happy with the programs I’m producing and what I do for them,” she added.

According to DiScioscia, the board was supportive of her work initially and many members continue to support her and the programs she developed, yet in recent years some members have begun pushing for the discontinuation or alteration of service programs, seeking to increase the fee for meals to a flat fee of approximately $6 that DiScioscia set as a recommended donation of $3.

“I present it as a financial donation, some people can’t pay it all,” DiScioscia explained. “The senior center board needs to understand the terminology of what a program is versus a fundraiser or event. We don’t make profit off of programs to provide services, that’s why we’re getting grants to pay for them.”

Attendance and utilization of the service programs fluctuates, but DiScioscia said an average of about 20 to 30 seniors make use of the services on a weekly basis. That average has dropped from highs of anywhere from 40 to 60 seniors using the services each week, but she said it is not due to a lack of need.

“They need it, they just can’t get here,” DiScioscia explained saying that some seniors are unable to make it to the center due to illness, hospitalization, lack of transportation or other complications.

“I believe all of these programs should stay,” she said.

With disagreement among the board about how the senior should be run and what programs should continue and how, DiScioscia expressed discouragement, ultimately deciding it is time to move on from her position as director.

“I want to help. If I’m not helping it’s time for me to resign,” she said. “The board has to be organized before the director can do their job.”

“I’ll look elsewhere to donate my time, money and efforts,” DiScioscia added, saying that she plans to seek out other opportunities to support seniors. “I’m going to really miss the seniors, I really love them dearly.”

Several calls seeking additional information from the Gloversville Senior Center Board of Directors and plans for the director position following DiScioscia’s departure were not returned before press time.

By Patricia Older

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