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Seniors' Protest Helps Delay Closing Of Popular Senior Center

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh's only senior-citizen center will not be shut down -- at least not yet.

Wake County commissioners on Monday put off a vote on the Whitaker Mill facility.

More than 100 senior citizens packed the commissioners' meeting to protest. They came to fight for the Whitaker Mill senior center, a place where -- for the past 22 years -- senior citizens have gathered for fun and friendship.

"There, we have the camaraderie," senior citizen Jean Waddell said. "There, we have the chance to exercise. There, we have the chance to play games."

The 700 seniors who use the center recently learned it would be closed in order to accommodate mental-health services that will be lost when Dorothea Dix shuts down.

"We just have nothing if they take it away from us," senior citizen Aileen Turner said. "We have nothing. We don't have a place to go."

The group found sympathetic ears among commissioners, some of whom are seniors themselves.

"It's the way it's been for 20-something years," commissioner Phil Jefferies said. "These people don't want the change, and I don't blame them."

Not only did commissioners agree to study the issue further, they offered an apology.

"I do think it could have been done a lot better than the way it was," Board Chairman Kenn Gardner said. "And for that, I do apologize."

Not only do commissioners want participation from seniors and Human Services officials, they hope the city gets involved to fnd a solution everyone can live with.

A study group will report back to the commissioners in 60 to 90 days.


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