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Russ Sholes senior group disbands, donates assets to CVAA

MIDDLBURY — The Russ Sholes Senior Center was a pretty big draw when it formed in Middlebury some 35 years ago. Dozens of seniors gathered regularly in the lower level of Middlebury’s municipal building to share potluck meals, chat, and play cards and board games. A group of crafts enthusiasts —whom then-Town Clerk Richard Goodro fondly anointed the “sew-sew girls” — would also meet up to stitch and knit together, making clothes that they would donate to local charities.
But with membership in a steady decline and other socialization options for seniors, the remaining eight Russ Sholes members voted unanimously last month to dissolve the club and donate its remaining $15,000 in assets to the Champlain Valley Agency on Aging (CVAA), an organization that for years has organized meals and other services for Addison County seniors. The CVAA serves seniors in Addison, Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties.
“The younger people just didn’t seem to come in,” said Anna Reynolds, who joined the group in 2001. “Our numbers dwindled and with so many things going on in Middlebury, we decided it was time to dissolve the Russ Sholes group.”
Reynolds shared her comments at the regular Tuesday luncheon hosted by the CVAA at the Russ Sholes space in the municipal building. The luncheons will continue there for area seniors, albeit without the Russ Sholes affiliation.
Mary West, assistant nutrition director and healthy aging coordinator for the CVAA, expressed her gratitude to the Russ Sholes membership for its generous donation, which will be earmarked for services to seniors in Addison County. She also praised members for trying to keep the Russ Sholes organization going. But in the end, members recognized there was not enough energy and members to make a go of it.
“It was a group whose time had come,” West said.
She added matters came to a head recently when the group was due to renew its non-profit status with the Internal Revenue Service. The remaining Russ Sholes members realized that those in key leadership posts had either passed away, entered nursing homes, or were unable to take on administrative responsibilities.
“There were no new people coming in to fill the ranks,” West said.
Fortunately, member Shirley Foster had wisely invested $10,000 of the club’s assets, which have now grown to a little more than $15,000. Tracy Corbett, the CVAA’s community meals coordinator at the Russ Sholes site, organized a meeting of club members so they could discuss their future.
“I just wanted to facilitate them coming together to come to a consensus,” she explained.
Walter Deverell, a CPA in Middlebury, gave the club a free overview of its financial records and options going forward.
Ultimately, members decided to turn over the club’s assets to the CVAA.
“I was surprised,” said West, who believed the club might divide its funds among several organizations. “They just wanted one recipient.”
Corbett was also pleased with the group’s decision.
“I can’t thank you enough for your generosity,” she told the assembled seniors on Tuesday.
West stressed seniors will continue to meet for their weekly Tuesday luncheons at the Middlebury municipal building, along with a very popular lunch every first Friday of the month at the Middlebury VFW. Plans call for the Tuesday luncheons to continue at the new Middlebury recreation center when it is built next year. West said the CVAA would scout out an interim location if it looks like construction might interrupt service.
In other CVAA news, West noted on Tuesday the organization recently delivered its 9 millionth “Meals on Wheels” meal in its coverage area during this, its 40th year. That meal was delivered by John Barber, who is retiring from his volunteer job after 34 years. Those who wish to volunteer to deliver Meals on Wheels in Addison County may contact Tracy Corbett at 1-800-865-0360 or via email tracy@cvaa.org.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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