AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – Officials with the Amarillo Senior Citizens Association gathered at the Central Church of Christ Wednesday morning to have a conversation about whether or not the organization can exist in its current monetary situation.
How did the association get to this place?
Since 1973, ASCA has operated in the Amarillo area, giving seniors the chance to congregate, participate in activities and provide services for members of that community. According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the association moved from its longtime home at the downtown campus of Amarillo College in September 2020, moving to two other locations in the meantime, including a building owned by the Wesley Community Center as well as the old location of the IDK Sports Bar and Grill.
Officials with the association purchased a building from Potter County in December 2020, gutting the building and removing asbestos. However, officials said during Wednesday’s meeting that ASCA is currently working in a ‘hold mode,’ with the organization running out of money while there is none coming in.
“I’m not going to lie to you: this has been daunting and to date, not fruitful at all, other than ideas and potential money down the road,” Jeff Whitsell, the executive director for ASCA, told attendees. “Obviously, we had contributing factors that all hit the same time. We lost our home at Amarillo College, we have had two moves and in the middle of that, a pandemic. None of that helps the situation. But it also wasn’t the root problem.”
Whitsell presented members of the association with data from various business viability studies for ASCA. Some of the data presented included that the association has recorded a -2% cash flow from 1997 to 2020 and its net margin ratio, a figure which shows if a business’s model is working, was reported as -13.95% over the last four years, meaning that for every dollar the association has spent in that time period, it lost 14 cents.
Whitsell said that ASCA’s current liquidity, as of June, is less than 2% of the required cost to complete the renovation of the building the association purchased from Potter County, saying that “even with a cash infusion to complete the building project, the organization does not have funds for operations.”
To show the current state of where the association is at, Whitsell also cited declining participation in the association, with membership fee revenue declining by 27.7% between 2011 and 2019, competition among other senior citizens centers in the area as well as ongoing inflation. Whitsell said that ASCA lost federal funding in 2013, stressing that the association has “no significant business model changes were implemented to make up the gap left by the loss of federal funding.”
“It’s real simple – we’re out of money. We don’t have enough to build our building,” Whitsell said. “We don’t have enough really to do anything at this point.”
What does the association’s future look like?
Because of this, the initial purpose of Wednesday’s meeting was to begin the closure process. Whitsell told members of the association that the board authorized him to begin the “wrapping up” process, a process that the state of Texas requires if an entity is going out of business. However, Whitsell said that the possibility of grants in the near future, as well as the chance to receive funds from the city of Amarillo from the American Rescue Plan Act, could keep ASCA’s doors open.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the city allocated $500,000 of ARPA funds for “senior citizen support.” This allocation was out of the first $19.8 million the city of Amarillo received in May 2021. These funds support projects for improved ventilation, food insecurity assistance and social distancing support for senior citizens.
Freda Powell, a member of the city of Amarillo’s City Council who was present during Wednesday’s meeting, said during the meeting that the city will soon issue a request for proposal, giving senior citizens associations across the city to apply for the ARPA funds, which is why those funds earmarked for senior citizens have not been allocated yet. Powell stressed that the associations will have to meet certain criteria.
“We want to be fair to all of our senior citizen organizations. I can tell you right now, there are some organizations throughout the city of Amarillo that are doing very well and thriving and they probably will not apply for those funds,” Powell said. “But for those senior citizens that you know, such as this organization, you know, you need the funding. So, I know that you will apply and go through that process.”
While ASCA’s closure was the expected result from Wednesday’s meeting, Whitsell said that a person he trusts stressed that ASCA should apply for the city’s ARPA funds and apply for the grants that are coming available.
“I don’t know who all’s gonna apply for (the ARPA funds),” Whitsell said. “We could be the only one, but that doesn’t mean we’ll get it. There’s an opportunity to get $600,000, there’s an opportunity to get nothing, or somewhere in between. Would that solve our problems? No, for many reasons. But it would give us the ability to talk to our architect or if we want to go a different direction, to talk to a realtor about renting (a building). It can create a lot of opportunity for us.”
Whitsell told the members of the association present on Wednesday that this is a critical time for ASCA, saying that they are going to continue to try and make the association work as much as they can. However, he asked members of the association to keep praying.
“I would say our chances are very, very slim. But given a little bit of hope, I’m gonna try for it and see what we can do. And you know, it just takes a little momentum sometimes,” Whitsell said after the meeting. “…We’re gonna give us this last push… one last push to convince funders, grants, anyone who can help us that (thinks) we’re worth investing in, that there is a need for a senior center.”
For more information about the Amarillo Senior Citizens Association, visit its website.