Seniors aided by generous gift

By MARY ANN HERRINGTON

OBSERVER Staff Writer

Folks at the Dunkirk Senior Center can breathe a little easier now. The site of their daily activities will soon be refreshingly cool during the dog days of summer and toasty warm throughout the harsh winter months. This relief is due in large part to the benevolence of a local married couple who wish to remain anonymous.

Numerous complaints regarding the heat or cold in the center had been brought to the attention of Dunkirk Senior Citizens President Barbara Bajdas and Volunteer Coordinator Carol Kozlowski. Hoping to remedy the situation, they purchased space heaters and cooling fans, especially since the center has been designated as a heating-cooling station by Chautauqua County.

“Our heating system was in need of frequent repair,” said Kozlowski. “The devices we purchased passed safety concerns and hazards. The city of Dunkirk encounters a wide range of temperature variations throughout the year. The senior population is sensitive to these temperature extremes. Therefore, it is imperative that the building be able to maintain adequate climate control.”

Kozlowski went on to explain that after investigating the problem, it was discovered that two of the original heating/cooling units were beyond repair and the third was on its last legs. Replacement of these 36-year-old units came with a hefty price tag of $20,000.

Knowing the cost was out of reach, a grant application was prepared and quickly submitted to the city of Dunkirk with the intention of receiving some relief in the form of Community Development Block Grant Funds. Unfortunately, the request was denied. Due to the current economic picture, the city and county were unable to help. With all other grant opportunities having been exhausted, the odds of a successful outcome were looking bleak.

Determined not to give up, Kozlowski and Bajdas contacted the two people they felt would best respond to this pressing need for assistance. Well-known for their generosity toward their hometown community, the donors, in a giving spirit, offered to match the funds the center had available for a new heating/cooling unit for the site, which is located at 45 Cliffstar Court.

“They believe in helping organizations that help themselves,” Kozlowski noted. “The senior citizens of Dunkirk and the surrounding communities are very grateful and appreciative of this generous donation which will help to improve their comfort for many years to come.”

Also worthy of mention is that under the leadership of the current president and coordinator, membership at the senior center has increased to more than 400 in the past two and a half years. As attendance has grown, so have the number and types of activities offered. The monthly Sunday galas are filled to capacity. Monthly bus trips are now fully reserved, including an overnight adventure to Atlantic City. A more extensive trip to Atlantic City is being planned for August.

In addition to a lively calendar of activities, the building itself has undergone a considerable “sprucing up.” Bajdas and Kozlowski cleaned out 30 years of unnecessary “stuff”; painted the entire interior of the building; carpeted the library, hallways and offices; stripped and waxed the main meeting hall; and repaired everything that was broken. In addition, much-needed copy machines, computers, telephones, appliances, bingo machines, chairs, gym equipment, drapes, rods and supplies were purchased.

Now with the added comfort of a new heating and cooling system in the very near future, the Dunkirk Senior Center will continue to offer a welcome haven for the area’s ever-growing senior population.

Send comments on this story to mherrington@observertoday.com.