Center raising funds for a sustainable future
Liz Page, a board member and treasurer for The Dunbar Center, stood up in the final hour of the Election Day Breakfast fundraiser to thank all who came to support the center as it works to get back on its feet.
“We are not laying dead. We are alive and well and working hard for this community,” she relayed.
The center offered a down-home breakfast of grits, eggs, catfish, biscuits and sausage gravy, fresh fruit and beverages starting at 7:30 a.m. Nov. 8. Page said more than 200 community members came through and enjoyed the meal catered by Joe’s to Go, a new takeout and catering business set to open in the next two weeks at 415 W. Onondaga St.
Page asked Phyllis Moore, a longtime friend, to help out at the center 17 months ago. Moore, who had recently retired from an administrative position at the Syracuse City School District, agreed to step in for three months, but never left. She calls herself a working volunteer and currently serves as the center’s interim executive director, overseeing staff, volunteers and the day-to-day tasks.
Moore and Page became friends more than 40 years ago when they met at the center. At that time, Moore was working there after graduating, and Page was a board member working as a liaison with the United Way.
The friends continue to support The Dunbar Center and say this fundraiser, and others still in the planning stages, will help with the basic needs of running the facility located at 1453 S. State St. Currently there are six employees — all who work part-time: two youth workers each contributing limited hours, two senior workers, one part-time custodian and one part-time clerical worker provided by JobsPlus.
“Funding raised today goes to keep on the lights, pay the gas and eclectic,” Page said. “To keep the center running so programming can continue.”
The center currently offers senior activities from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday and is open for afterschool programing five days a week from 2 to 6 p.m. Hattie Brantley, who coordinates senior programing, says offerings include exercise three times a week and each Friday is reserved for a special presentation. Recently a two-part series was offered on healthy eating with a focus on diabetes. The center also offers transpiration for any senior who would like to participate.
In July of 2011, the center lost funding from the United Way of Central New York after it did not pass a fiscal and management review. By 2013, the center closed while board members sought new funding streams and worked to resolve past financial issues. Steven Williams, the president of the board in 2013, told Syracuse.com that the center was $290,000 in debt.
“Now I see a lot of positive things moving forward here,” Moore said. “I feel we are regaining trust in the community.”
Dunbar is set to celebrate 100 years in 2018 and seeks volunteers to join a planning committee to organize anniversary-related events. Additionally volunteers are sought to lead programming and donate money to support the facility’s operating costs.
Page and other board members stressed they are working to resolve back debt and partnering with other organizations to share resources and expand programming. Currently 14 student interns are working with the center to launch a new website, upgrade the computer lab and plan a Dec. 8 art auction fundraiser to be held at the Community Folk Art Center.
“You being here today helps greatly,” Page said to the guests. “We’re going to serve another 100 years after 2018.”
— By Ashley Kang, The Stand director