Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 68-year-old Betty Swinson goes to the Scottdale Senior Center.
If she didn’t, Swinson would be “sitting in the house looking at the four walls.”
“It’s my outlet,” said Swinson, who has been a member of the center since 2006, when she moved to Georgia.
Swinson and the 18 other seniors at the small center in the Scottdale community are concerned that the center may not survive the 2012 DeKalb County budget process.
“If they close it up, we wouldn’t have anywhere to go,” Swinson said. “That’s just like kicking us to the curb. How would they feel if it were their mama or their daddy?
“We need our center open to keep our minds together,” Swinson said. “Leave Scottdale alone. Let us be happy. Let us have our outlet.”
The Scottdale center, which has been open since 1974, is the second oldest in DeKalb. Residents ages 60 and older are eligible to become members of one of the county’s six senior centers.
In addition to Scottdale are the DeKalb/Atlanta, Lithonia, Lou Walker (also in Lithonia), North DeKalb and South DeKalb centers.
The maximum membership for the Scottdale center is 49, if the county allows the center to reach that number, said Dorothy Neason, an AARP volunteer who manages the center.
At the center, the residents hear presentations about medication and health issues, Neason said.
They make crafts, go on trips and grocery shopping and they receive a nutritious meal.
“All of that helps add to the health of the seniors,” Neason said. “It’s very important for them not to be alone.
“Older people need to be in a community setting,” Neason said. “They don’t need to sit at home alone and do nothing. That’s when they deteriorate and get sick.”
Neason said the seniors are very concerned about what will happen if the center is closed.
“No one from DeKalb County management has talked to the seniors about anything,” Neason said. “They shouldn’t have to hear stuff from the wind.”
Burke Brennan, the county’s chief communications officer, said none of the senior centers are being closed under the proposed 2012 county budget of DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, which, at $547.3 million, is 1.2 percent higher than the 2011 budget.
The administration is in the process of establishing partnerships with volunteers and non-profit organizations to manage the county’s senior centers “to live with our budget realities,” Brennan said.
Maintaining some of the county’s programs “depends upon a rather large volunteer contingent,” Brennan said.
At $353,000, the proposed budget for senior citizen centers is 53 percent of last year’s budget.
“The decrease in budget doesn’t mean anything is closing,” Brennan said.
Clarkston resident Rachel Brotherson, 69, said if the Scottdale center is closed, “it would be terrible because I couldn’t find anything to do every day.”
Brotherson, who has been attending since 2008, worked for Senior Connections for two years and was transferred to work at the Scottdale center, which used to be open five days a week.
“Then they cut it down to three,” Brotherson said. “If it were left up to the county, it would be down to nothing. Because we’re a small center, they want to kick us to the curb.”
Brotherson said she goes to the center “to have fun, to meet people and to go on trips. It makes my day.”
The seniors are not asking for a new building, upgrades or enhanced programs.
“We’re not asking for anything,” Brotherson said. “We’re alive and well and kicking. Just leave us alone.”
Marjorie Daniels, 88, said it is “a horrible thought” to consider the closing of the center.
“I’d deteriorate,” Daniels said. “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. What would I do?”