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Anonymous donor funds half-year of Council on Aging director position

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SHIRLEY — The Council on Aging (COA) director’s position that Annual Town Meeting voters funded for half a year will be funded for a full year, thanks to an anonymous gift.

The good news was announced at the ATM’s sixth session on Wednesday night, June 25 and came as a complete surprise, COA Chairman Harold Smith said the next day.

“We don’t know who it is,” Smith said. But he promised the COA will follow through. “Now it’s up to us,” he said. “We plan to advertise for the position next week.”

The donor is a Shirley resident who has asked to remain anonymous, said town administrator Kyle Keady.

“It was quite a surprise” when the man walked into the Town Offices on Wednesday afternoon and offered to help fund the director’s position, Keady said.

At the fifth ATM session on June 24, voters were asked to fund the $28,000 post for a year. The selectmen supported the request, but the Finance Committee recommended against it. Offered a compromise, voters agreed to pay $14,000 to cover the job for half a year.

The anonymous $14,094 contribution makes up the difference, Keady said, and the position is now covered for a full year.

On Wednesday, after talking with Keady for some time about the “means and method” of donating and directing the money, the man stepped over to the town library while the administrator researched legal issues and assembled necessary paperwork. “He came back and wrote the check,” Keady said.

The money will be deposited in a gift fund set up for the intended purpose, Keady said. That is, to fund the COA director from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2008, when the town’s appropriation kicks in.

“We will not benefit directly from this service, and we are not wealthy,” the man wrote in a letter addressed to the town of Shirley. “This contribution represents sacrifices for something we believe is important.”

In his letter, the man said that he and his wife attended the June 24 ATM and were “intrigued” by the “positive” discussion of the COA director’s position. The case for it was clearly stated, he said, as was the town’s tough financial position. The upshot, apparently, was that the two residents decided to step up, but prefer to do so behind the scenes. “It is our belief that it is imperative that this position begin as soon as possible,” the letter stated.

Keady called their actions “inspirational.”

Smith agreed. “It’s a miracle,” he said.

COA reconstituted

Since the Council on Aging was reconstituted four months ago, the nine-member group has publicized its purview, purpose and plans, including long’ and short-term goals. Topping the list is a director to co-ordinate programs and “drive the bus,” while the council launches an effort to establish a senior center in town.

Possible senior center locales explored so far include the town-owned War Memorial Building or renovating the vacant Center School, if the School Committee agrees.

Another option is to build on town land behind the police station, slated for the purpose.

Adding to the build option, there is seed money — a $25,000 senior center nest-egg in the town’s MCI prison mitigation account, earmarked several years ago. The Board of Selectmen controls the account and has said it will not use that money for anything else.

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