Letter: Time to speak up on senior center situation

Posted 5/26/22

To the editor:The word is out. Calls are being made, questions are being asked and there is confusion all around. We knew this would happen way back in December when we first heard of the Walley …

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Letter: Time to speak up on senior center situation

Posted

To the editor:

The word is out. Calls are being made, questions are being asked and there is confusion all around. We knew this would happen way back in December when we first heard of the Walley School Project and the plan of making it a new Senior Center. In fact, there is so much confusion over the actual name! Will it be called a Senior Center, Resource Center, Senior and Resource Center or, as stated on NBC, is it now “Bristol Senior Center”?

Many are confused as we at Benjamin Church Senior Center have been known for 50+ years as Bristol Senior Center. To clear any confusion, no, we are not moving downtown, we will always be here at the Corner of Hope and Chestnut and will always remain here strictly for our senior population. We are a true “Senior Center” and believe in our purpose and vision that started many years ago.

Some years ago, the family of Benjamin Church, wanting to help those less fortunate, decided to build this house as a home for aged men who needed assistance. It worked, and the outpouring of need for common space blossomed and later became a home for all seniors, women included. Recognizing the need for elderly affordable housing, this family deeded over its acreage of land for the construction of Benjamin Church Manor, also known as Bristol Housing Authority. It filled up quickly and a waiting list ensued. To this day there is still a waiting list, which proves that our seniors need our assistance more than ever. It was agreed way back then that the “Yellow House” as it is known would always remain a common meeting place for our senior population to congregate and age with grace.

It was deeded to the Town of Bristol in 1969 with the agreement that they would always keep it a senior center and would help with the cost of utilities and employees to keep it running. The upkeep of the house would be through grants and funds secured by a trust. The town would not have to pay for repairs and upgrades per this agreement. They kept to that arrangement for almost 50 years. Those in charge of running this center secured grants and funds to keep this building up to code and in pristine shape throughout the years, only asking for help from the town when absolutely necessary. For many years they collaborated and worked well together.

The Town of Bristol recently gave this house back to the family. Why would they do that? Why would they turn over one of the most inexpensive yet important buildings in this town? Well, we now know why. This administration obviously had a personal agenda, to say the least. It is called control, or the lack of it in this case. Bristol will now have two senior centers competing with each other. It’s inevitable.

We aren’t going away and will remain at the corner of Hope and Chestnut. We will continue to service seniors for hopefully another 50 years in respect to the legacy of Benjamin Church. Some say there is honor between gentlemen; well it is quite obvious, not with those in charge today.

What a disservice to our senior population.

Maria Doherty
President, Benjamin Church Board of Directors

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.