Willie Nelson & Family
Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013
Eaton County Fairgrounds
1025 S Cochran Ave, Charlotte, MI
Tickets $50 – $65
for Tickets and more information visit www.cpacpresents.com
It was just a passing suggestion – bringing Willie Nelson to town – that Eaton Area Senior Center Executive Director Cindy Miller didn’t take seriously at first.
A volunteer with contacts in the entertainment industry proposed the idea as one way to help generate money for the struggling facility, located on North Cochran Avenue. Miller said the senior center, one of only two in Eaton County, has been costing more to run than can be generated in income for several years.
“A few months ago one of the volunteers had the idea,” said Miller. “My first reaction was, ‘Yeah, right.’”
But the volunteer was persistent, handing Miller a business card for Meridian Entertainment Group and urging her to look into the possibility.
Miller did and now the beloved Nelson and Friends is set to perform at the Eaton County Fairgrounds on Sept. 26 at the property’s grandstand.
For fans it means a chance to see the singer-songwriter perform. For supporters of the Eaton Area Senior Center, the concert could represent more than $100,000 for the non-profit facility that needs it badly.
The center was established in 2000, a former church that was donated and then remodeled into a senior facility with over 600 members. It took two years and a community effort to raise the $500,000 needed to erect it. When the building was destroyed in a fire a year later community supporters rebuilt it.
Support for the facility was so strong that fund raising efforts that followed sustained it for a few years, but Miller said when the economy took a nose dive things changed.
“We’ve been struggling for years,” she said.
Running the center costs an estimated $250,000 a year, said Miller. In recent years, the center’s income – from building rentals to membership dues – has come in short of that by up to nearly $30,000 some years. Last year cutbacks, including reducing the center’s staff by three part-time positions, allowed the facility to break even.
Concert could generate $150,000
Miller said it was time for something bigger, a fundraiser that would bring in enough money to make the center “solid” again. Nelson’s September performance could be just that.
“If we fill every seat we’ll raise $150,000,” said Miller. Ticket prices vary between $40 and $65 a seat and on-line sales are underway on the Charlotte Performing Arts Center Web site. Miller said when CPAC announced the concert on its Facebook page July 24 the center’s Web site got 4,000 hits in just 24 hours.
The buzz surrounding Nelson’s show is a promising sign for supporters of the center, who say the facility is an important gathering place for senior citizens and other members of the community.
Ramona Tripplet is chairwoman of the senior center’s seven-member Board of Directors but she’s been coming to the facility for several years. “I’ve put a lot of time in here,” she said. “Me and my husband both. We love the center and we do a lot of things here.”
Tripplet is one of the 100 estimated volunteers who work at the Eaton Area Senior Center every year, cooking meals in the kitchen, cleaning, making facility repairs and doing bookkeeping in the office. “Whatever’s needed we try to do,” she said.
Dorothy Bates, board secretary, has been volunteering at the center and utilizing it for 10 years. “It provides a place for our seniors to come to get their social activity, where they can visit with other people. Otherwise, they’d be home probably just sitting in front of a T.V. or whatever. This gives them to have a chance to have a meal every day and to have it with other people.”
Miller said the volunteers and the county’s seniors have a fierce loyalty to the center, often donating out of their own pockets when repairs or needed or equipment needs replacing. “They do whatever the center needs,” she explained.
According to Larry Royston, a founding member of the center who designed the new building after the original center burned down, the facility always has needs.
“We always need money to keep it going,” said Royston. “I hope this is a beginning of something. The more places we can raise a lot of money, the less places we’ll have to work for not much. We’ve got a lot of things that the average person can’t see that need fixing.”
“You can’t put a value on it,” said Royston, of the center. “The place is worth, like, a million dollars actual cash value but it’s priceless, as far as putting a value on the place.”
Bates said the event is a crucial step in providing a financial safety net for the senior center. “It’s going to secure us now and we’re very thankful for that.”