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Hopedale - Local Town Pages

Council on Aging programs to be cut, senior center to close if override fails

By Theresa Knapp 
The Hopedale Council on Aging provides services to residents of all ages. They are the “human services department” for the town, says Council on Aging Director Carole Mullen.
But those services could all go away if voters do not pass a proposed $1.35 million override in May. The override, which includes $130,000 for the COA, will have to pass at Town Meeting (May 16) and a special election (May 23) to go into effect.
If the override fails, the COA will lose its funding and the senior center (and the town library) would close. In addition, the Park Department would not have summer programs; and the School Department would lose teachers, sports programs, transportation services, and more, according to Interim Town Administrator Jeff Nutting. [See “A Snapshot of Hopedale’s Financial Position” starting on page 5] 
“I think it would be a catastrophic loss. If we go away, it’s not like there is another town department or employee who can do this work; there’s no one to provide the sorts of services we do,” says Mullen, adding they were open every day during COVID-19 to address residents’ issues. “We have people who come here flabbergasted or hysterically crying” because they are frustrated with a governmental process, a social situation, or another problem with which they need assistance. 
There are approximately 1,600 residents over the age of 60 in Hopedale but COA services are available to all residents of the town (est. pop. 6,000). Mullen estimates they are actively providing services to 300 or 400 residents and they field “thousands of phone calls every year” from residents seeking general information, specific referrals, etc. She said many people need help with more than one issue, and the COA serves as a ‘lifeline’ to those who have no one else to call.
“The services we provide are pretty intense,” says Mullen, noting many residents have a trusted relationship with the COA staff who can help them with an array of issues related to: 

Caretaker support
Domestic abuse resources 
Food assistance
Fuel assistance 
Health clinics (including vaccines)
Home repair Assistance 
Housing/rental assistance 
In-home medical assessments  
Medicare counseling
Meals on Wheels 
Outreach services
Paperwork assistance 
Social activities to encourage mental and physical well-being
Transportation (medical appointments, errands)

The COA also offers social programming at the senior center such as card games and knitting, and lifelong learning classes in areas such as painting and literature. Mullen says these programs help with the “healthy aging process.”
Mullen oversees the “senior citizen real estate tax credit program” in which up to 25 seniors can work in various town departments (including school cafeterias, Town Hall, and the library) to earn up to $1,000 to offset their real estate property taxes. 
Mullen understands the town’s expenses are higher than its revenue this year  but worries what the Hopedale community will look like if the proposed cuts are made. 
“If we start to eliminate all the things that make Hopedale a special community, who would want to live here? If the quality of our schools diminishes or we have no town library, why would anyone want to live here?”