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Denied grant request sparks other Holly Place fundraising

September 15, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN - After being turned down for a Washington County Gaming Commission grant, the board overseeing a Hagerstown senior citizens' home is raising money in other ways.

Senior Living Alternatives, which runs the nonprofit Holly Place group home on South Potomac Street, raised about $45,000 within the past month, according to Melanie Davis, the home's administrator.

Doug Wright Jr., the board's president, said Senior Living Alternatives had to scramble for money after being denied by the Gaming Commission last month.

"We have to raise $160,000 to stay open next year," he said. "That's a huge number and we have to work awful hard."

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Holly Place has 15 beds. Davis said one bed recently opened up because a client died. However, about a dozen people are on a waiting list, she said.

Holly Place has been on the edge of shutting down in recent years because of financial problems. For that same reason, Senior Living Alternatives had to close a second senior citizens' group home, North Holly Place, in 2006.

The organization's difficulties have sparked public fund drives and prompted some state representatives to look for longer-range solutions.

Wright said one problem is a Medicaid waiver policy change that has cut the number of Holly Place clients who are covered.

Gaming Commission records show Senior Living Alternatives received at least $20,000 each fiscal year since 1998.

The peak during that time was $45,000 in fiscal year 2004, but the grant dropped to $15,000 last year.

This year, the organization asked for $100,000 for operations but didn't receive any money.

From fiscal years 2006 to 2009, the amount of county gaming money available for distribution dropped from $1.5 million to $1.3 million, but the total of requests increased from $3.0 million to $3.3 million, records show.

In a letter to the editor, Wright contrasted Holly Place's rejected gaming fund application to more than $84,000 awarded to youth sports teams and leagues.

During a phone interview, Wright said youth sports are worthwhile, but said the leagues have other ways to raise money, such as snack bars and raffles.

Also, Holly Place is more of a necessity because its clients often have nowhere else to live, he said.

Asked why the Gaming Commission didn't give money to Holly Place this year, Chairwoman Penny Pittman would say only that the commission makes unified decisions based on information on applications.

She defended funding for youth sports leagues, which she said teach skills children use for life.

In his letter, Wright pleaded for public donations, asking 100 people to send $500 apiece; 50 people to send $1,000 apiece; or five people or organizations to send $10,000 each.

The letter, which ran in the Aug. 11 edition of The Herald-Mail, led to $10,000 in donations, he said.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, arranged for a $25,000 donation from Maryland Physicians Care, a managed-care operation of which Washington County Health System is a part-owner.

CareFirst, a health insurer, is giving $10,000.

The Community Foundation of Washington County MD couldn't give money because the request came outside its annual funding cycle, Executive Director Brad Sell said.

However, two people with donor-advised funds through the foundation contributed, Sell said.

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