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Preston Fund for the Elderly to support safe, affordable housing for elderly

Thu, Mar 31st 2022 08:00 am
Former CDC directors Rosanne Larsen and Terri Stranburg (left and right) with Cathy Mackay, director of the Cattaraugus County Department for the Aging (middle).
Former CDC directors Rosanne Larsen and Terri Stranburg (left and right) with Cathy Mackay, director of the Cattaraugus County Department for the Aging (middle).

For 40+ years, the Cattaraugus Development Corporation helped to provide safe and affordable housing for low-income families and the elderly in Cattaraugus County.

Recently established at the Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation, the Cattaraugus County/Gene and Charlotte Preston Fund for the Elderly will help continue the mission of that organization in perpetuity by making annual funding available to the Cattaraugus County Department for the Aging.

The fund was established with the remaining assets of the Cattaraugus Development Corporation (CDC) when that organization recently dissolved.

Grants from the fund will: provide housing support by paying back taxes, rent or mortgage payments for elderly residents in financial need, provide legal support/services to resolve housing issues, or pay for repairs needed to make a home handicapped-accessible or address code violations to allow the residents to stay in their home as long as possible and feasible.

The fund also honors two long-standing board members from the CDC, Gene and Charlotte Preston. Gene passed away only a few months ago. Charlotte is still living.

“They [Gene and Charolotte] were always available for short notice support if needed and insured all actions were in compliance with our mission,” said Terri Stranburg, former CDC executive director. “Even after resigning, they maintained an active interest in our activities and status.”

While one of the CDC’s main roles was to administer HUD’s Section 8 rental assistance program, Stranburg said that an emerging need through the last few years of the agency’s work was difficult situations with elderly applicants.

“The loss of a deceased spouse’s income or an unaffordable repair was resulting in the loss of their home. Since our waiting list time frame was 3-5 years long, the elderly in crisis were left with few or no options,” she said. “Our staff felt their despair very keenly and telling an elderly person we could not help was heartbreaking.”

Seeing those needs emerge inspired the current director at the time of the CDC’s dissolution, Rosanne Larsen, to support the Cattaraugus County Department of the Aging so that the department would be able to help resolve housing issues and keep seniors safely in their own homes.

According to Cattaraugus County Department of the Aging Director Cathy Mackay, the endowment will serve a crucial purpose.

“One of the reasons our department exists, is to assist older adults in their ability to stay in their own homes, living with dignity, respect, and independence,” she said. “There are only so many funds or programs we have to assist people, whether it is an issue of rental assistance, back taxes, a broken water heater, or a stair lift or ramp.

“When people aren’t eligible for one program, we try to find them other options. This endowment will mean that we can help more people in their time of need,” she added. “I cannot begin to express how much this means to us and the community we serve.  “

According to Mackay, the fund will make possible annual funding that will allow the agency to address “crisis” housing needs, while maintaining sustainable funding for future needs.

The fund will also have an immediate impact, she said, as the agency will utilize funding this year to address immediate needs in two situations that will allow area seniors to continue living in their home, delaying nursing home placements.

CRCF Executive Director Karen Niemic Buchheit praised the forward thinking of the CDC’s board of directors in establishing this fund to support housing for the elderly.

“In rural communities like ours, the elderly face a number of challenges in being able to stay in their homes safely,” she said. “Making these resources available to an agency that works with the elderly population will ensure that more seniors can stay in their homes despite the needs for repairs, paying back taxes and more.”

The Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation is the area’s supportive, responsive and trusted community foundation. Established in 1994, CRCF is growing good by connecting donors to the causes they care about most in the region. Grants from the foundation support many areas, including education, scholarships, health care, the arts, community development, human service, and youth development. To learn more, call (716) 301-CRCF (2723), email [email protected], or visit online at www.cattfoundation.org. CRCF is also on Facebook (facebook.com/cattfoundation) and Twitter (@CattFoundation).