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.READ MORE: Philadelphia Police Investigating Fatal Crash After ATV, Vehicle Collide In Holmesburg
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.READ MORE: 3 Montgomery County School Districts To Require Masks Again Due To County's COVID-19 Level
“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.
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“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 3MORE NEWS: EXCLUSIVE: Teen Pilot Who Landed Plane On Bridge In Ocean City Shares How He Survived New Mexico Plane Crash