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ABC 6 NEWS INVESTIGATES - A Look at the Ledger: The Sustainability of 125 Live

December 11, 2018 10:42 PM

(ABC 6 News) -- "Enriching the lives of older adults," that's always been the goal for Senior Citizens Incorporated, better known 125 Live. For years the non-profit has worked to create programs that play to the physical and social needs of the community.

The non-profit moved to Elton Hills Drive, next to the Rochester Rec Center in the fall of 2016. Since then, the organization has been working to bring its members a sense of community, with activities to help strengthen the mind and body.

But now, it's the non-profit that is in need of a little reinforcement.

“When we switched operations from The Castle to this new place, it came with a lot of challenges and it took us a while to figure it out. ‘What was the problem? Why we aren't doing as well as we thought we would be doing?’” said Sylwia Bujak, who recently became the executive director of 125 Live.

In November, she went before the city leaders to discuss yearly funds allocated to the city-run non-profit. Since 2016, the city has given $120,000, each year, to the community center.

However this year, Bujak and her team asked for an extra $90,000 on top of the $120,000 already allotted and were denied.

She says the non-profit's biggest expense comes from staying open all day. “The previous senior center at The Armory was closed early in the afternoon which didn't provide the services for seniors who are still working and being active”

Right now 125 Live is open seven days a week, most days from 5:30 in the morning to 9 P.M. at night. The last thing the facility says it wants to do is cut down on hours or classes. 

“I do not find any pleasure coming and asking the city council for more money. At the same time, I feel like our members deserve at least a try from me. The projections show this is the amount of money we're going to be short next year,” Bujak said.

This isn't the first time that finances have presented a problem for the organization. Looking back on financial documents from 2017, the non-profit had just about $388,000 in total revenue. After expenses were taken out, it ended up nearly -$850,000 in the red.

The numbers for 2018 haven't been made public yet, but Bujak explained what she believes it will take to reach financial sustainability next year.

“Whenever city council asks me when I think we will be financially stable, we provide them with the projection of 450 more paying members to be financially stable.”

“Without a doubt, there is a need for this service,” said Rochester City Council Member Nick Campion. He says a baseline budget is implemented for organizations like 125 Live, meaning there isn't an increase in funding from year to year.

“If you look at the size of the requested increase, that's almost a 50% or so increase. I think if we looked at a lot of our organizations asking for that, there are very few cases where we would agree outright to a 50% increase,” he explained.

Campion says city staff will be keeping a close eye on 125 Live's sustainability model going into the new year.

“My goal would be over time, to step the support down, into whatever we want to call the minimum support level for the city so that we can take that money and spend it on other priorities,” Campion said.

As for Bujak, she agrees, saying it is possible, “I feel really strongly that we should not be dependent on anyone. We are definitely getting there. The fact that these last four months we have been extremely successful financially, and it shows us we're doing something right.”

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