Archived Story

Senior center mortgage goes up in smoke

Published 9:24am Thursday, September 3, 2009

Niles Daily Star

Where so many businesses and homeowners are furrowing brows over the matter of their mortgages these days, on Wednesday, a little change of pace.

It was a packed parking lot and a packed house at the Greater Niles Senior Center Wednesday morning, a gathering of supporters, friends and seniors to mark the burning of the center’s $200,000 mortgage – a pay off made way ahead of schedule.

Members of the center’s board of directors gathered for the burning and an endless amount of food was set out for a potluck lunch for all those in attendance.

A very celebratory mood hung in the air at the center, located at 1109 Bell Road in Niles.
“We’re very frugal,” said member of the board Marge Durm-Hiatt. “But we really couldn’t do it without all the volunteers that we have.”

Durm-Hiatt was a volunteer herself, working at the center after graduating from college. She and Mary Drolet, also on the board of directors – have been members of the board for years.

The center, Drolet said, “has gone through a lot of changes really.”

Including changes in location. Originally also attached to the city of Buchanan for some time, the center used to be housed in locations on Second Street and Third Street before moving to the Bell Road facility.

It has since severed from Buchanan, which has their own senior center, has grown to impressive numbers, sending around an estimated 3,500 newsletters.

And – it’s online.

“The new seniors are requiring more,” Durm-Hiatt and Drolet joked.

A long ago instituted millage “basically supports our operating expenses,” Drolet said. And officials at the center are quite appreciative of that fact. “Centers exist in Berrien County the way they do because of the millage,” she added. The county is home to seven centers like the Niles Senior Center.

Further monetary needs are achieved through fundraising efforts and events.

Aside from the equivalent of two full-time, paid staff people, Drolet and Durm-Hiatt say the center runs on the shoulders of volunteers.

“It’s phenomenal, it really is,” Durm-Hiatt said. “What they do here.”

Since moving to the Bell Road location, an addition was put on the facility made possible through donated funds. The organization has set their sights on their next challenge: finding a way to expand their available parking space.

But all thoughts were on the achievements at present, as members of the board hovered over a symbolic mortgage and an eager flame.

Along with Durm-Hiatt and Drolet, one of those board members was Orlie Davis, who has been a member of the board, including in the capacity of president and vice president since around the time senior center began over 35 years ago.

Asked what it means to him to burn the mortgage, Davis said, “it means success.
“This is a real blessing for the community,” he added.

Davis said he continues to help out when he can and added that whether or not the center grows out of its current, “beautiful” facility, will depend on the community.

A community whose resounding cheers echoed through the halls Wednesday, as the mortgage, that had a $92,000 remaining balance, which amounted to some $20,000 in interest for the center was paid off in one lump sum, Durm-Hiatt said just moments before they lit the certificate on fire.

“And it’s yours,” she said.

For more information on the Greater Niles Senior Center, visit

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