Without Donations, Beloved Senior Center To Close

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Dancing at the Stiffel Center in South Philadelphia always brings smiles to the seniors who’ve been coming for years.

“You walk in and it’s a friendly face, a nice smile,” beams Evelyn Morowitz, a senior from Northeast Philadelphia who’s been a regular for six years.

Only now there is sadness behind the smiles as the center gets ready to close its doors to about 400 seniors.

“I think there are going to be hundreds of people who get up in the morning and wonder, ‘What am I going to do today?’” says Harry Azoff.

When the center racked up $200,000 in debt, the Klein Jewish Community Center’s board voted to close it down. The Stiffel Center’s only hope was raising the money on its own. June 30 was the deadline, and unfortunately, the Center came up $110,000 short.

“In this economic climate, it’s tough to get people to contribute since they’re wondering if they’re going to have a job,” says the Stiffel Center’s director, Susan Hoffman.

The building requires a tremendous amount of maintenance. The ceiling in the nurse’s office has mold on the tiles and the plaster is falling apart, the boiler is 56 years old and needs to be replaced, and windows in the building are broken. But seniors say it is still the place they call home.

“I know a number of people who say, ‘I’ll give up, I won’t go anywhere else,’” says Morowitz.

The Stiffel Center will close for good at the end of July. Organizers say that leaves them one last chance for a miracle donation.

Watch the video…

“I’m just going to be optimistic and positive and hope for an angel to come and help us out,” says Laurel Katz, the organizer of “Save Our Stiffel,” a group determined to raise the necessary funds.

Most of the seniors say they will move to other senior centers if they have to, but they insist the Stiffel Center is the place they want to stay.

Reported by Oren Liebermann, CBS 3

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  • Ronald Burkle

    Many of the folks who use Stiffel are lower income. Many people in moderate or upper income households do not realize the need for a center such as this. If only the center could be jacked-up and put on wheels and moved closer to centercity, the Jewish Federation and its upscale supporters would repair it and bring in more folks to use it. For many of its members, it is the only decent meal they can afford all day. It is one dollar and it is kosher. The non Jewish members even join in Jewish prayer and singing. 604 Porter Street needs a mitzvah,because once it is gone even Moses ……….

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