Harry J. Olson Senior Center raising money to try and stay open

The senior center held a Chicken Q fundraiser Thursday

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The building that houses the Harry J. Olson senior center on La Crosse’s north side has been a part of the community for nearly 140 years, but budget cuts may force the center to close.

Seniors who use the center don’t want to see that happen, and Thursday, they held a fundraiser to help save the building before its lease with the city expires in December.

There are just some places that mean a lot to people.

“I enjoy the people,” member Ira Brown said. “It’s a good place to have a dance.”

Brown is a longtime member of the Harry J. Olson Senior Center.

“30 years, maybe,” Brown said. “20 years at least.”

And he can still show off some moves.

“You gotta feel the beat,” Brown said.

He’s also helping hand out meals for the center’s Chicken Q fundraiser, which is being done in part to keep Brown and the many other senior members there.

“Our goal is to raise enough funds by November to go to the city and purchase the building under the lease agreement for the one dollar they requested,” board president Tom Hammill said.

Those funds are a part of the “Save the Building” campaign.

“This building is here to stay,” Hammill said. “It’s been here 137 years, and we’re hoping to extend that life expectancy of the building.”

Hammill says the fundraiser is going towards the building’s total operating and utility costs.

“The operating cost goal is $10,000, and the utilities to help maintain the building next year would be $25,000,” Hammill said.

He says the center this year has already raised 40 percent of the utilities and more than half of the operating costs.

“So we’ve had a good start,” Hammill said. “We got a couple months to go here so we want to keep pushing.”

Just on Thursday, they got a pledge from the Coulee Chordsmen.

“That basically said anybody making a donation to the building for the remainder of the year here, they would match up to $10,000 of that donation,” Hammill said.

Brown understands he may not be dancing on this building’s floor by next year, but he’ll tell you that he’d prefer to stay.

“The neighborhood for the north side, I think this is a place for recreation and stuff like that,” Brown said.

The Southside Senior Citizen Center closed last year, but beginning next month the old rubber mills building on St. Andrew Street will replace that location.

If leaders are able to save the Harry J. Olson location, there would be two senior centers on the north side.