AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — With a new board in hand, officials with the revamped Amarillo Senior Citizens Association are looking to overcome obstacles it has faced in the last two years with a goal of serving the local senior population while also helping the city of Amarillo and the surrounding community at the same time.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, the association, which is also called ASCA, previously operated out of the downtown campus of Amarillo College, providing a place for seniors to come together, participate in activities and provide services for that population. In September 2020, the association moved out of that location and bounced around to other locations.
The association purchased a new building from Potter County in the San Jacinto neighborhood in December 2020 but has yet to officially move into that facility, with the cost of necessary improvements to the building impacting ASCA’s overall financial situation. During a meeting of the association in July, officials said they started the process of closing the association but had the opportunity to get some funding from the city of Amarillo through funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA.
Barbara Cromer, the vice president of the association, said the board voted to close down the association, saying she was the only one in favor of keeping it afloat. Conversations with community members then started to occur, which led to Tom Scherlen being recruited as the new president of ASCA’s board.
Scherlen, a former businessman and current Amarillo resident said before he was recruited, he was aware of ASCA’s situation. But with the new board, consisting of other community members like former lawyers and businesspeople, he believes it is a good overview of the community represented and a fresh start for an organization that needed one.
“We’re approaching this as a completely new start, as a new beginning. We’re basically starting over from scratch,” he said. “…I believe we really are trying to change the whole presentation for the senior citizens. It’s not just an organization… We need to become a force within the community. Instead of thinking the community should serve the seniors, I would like to see the seniors serving the community, and in doing that, it’s going to change the culture. It’s going to be changing the way we think.”
Scherlen said he sees ASCA as becoming a full outreach organization for the whole community. He sees the organization as having the potential of working with various neighborhood groups and residents of all ages with the goal of ASCA being something the entire community benefits from.
As far as the building the association purchased from Potter County in the San Jacinto neighborhood, Scherlen said he hopes to get the building set up in six months after the association receives funding, some of which could come from the city of Amarillo’s allocation of ARPA funds and other potential funds from grants, local foundations and from the federal government.
“(The seniors) need a place to go, a place to feel like they’re a part. I would love to see us get to the point where we’re giving out food to the community. I would love to see us getting some of the federal grants to be able to help the community in that way, you know, but we’ve got to work at it,” Scherlen said. “It’s going to take a lot of work… There’s no free ride here. If you’re going to be involved, you’re going to have to work hard.”
Cromer said that ASCA might still have to close if they do not receive any funding. But, she believes that the new leaders of the association have accomplished more in the last month than the association has in a long time.
“We are trying to take what tiny little bit of money we have left to get things started,” she said. “Once we get things started, we will, of course, be more able to go out and get donations from foundations and things like that once we show that we’re handling it like a business. That’s going to be fantastic and we’re not giving up.”
Scherlen stressed that it is important that the association thinks outside the box and approaches ASCA’s future in a way they have not done before.
“In the past… I felt like their old boards were nearsighted. They were worried about the here and the now. I’m looking at growing,” he said. “…We don’t have hardly anybody right now, but we need to get there and we need to be viable. We need to be pushing and asking and saying, what can we do to help? How can we help the city?… I want to be a social club (and) a group of city people working for the betterment. That’s where we need to go. We need to be thinking about others instead of ourselves.”