Donations needed at senior living center after COVID-19 costs pile up

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Rebekah Baines Johnson Center senior facility serving some of our city’s poorest people is in need of help during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly 200 senior citizens call the 16-story building off of Interstate 35 in east Austin home.

“A lot of people who are here are retired blue-collar workers or managers, a number of disabled people here,” Helen Varty, the center’s administrator said.

The center serves a group of the city’s most economically-disadvantaged seniors with some annual incomes less than $13,000.

In order to reduce the risk of coronavirus for its tenants, the center got to work and added new staff: two people at the front desk and one custodian in case a tenant gets sick. This has ended up costing the center nearly $100,000, and they’ve also spent thousands more on cleaning supplies.

“The board said spare no expense,” Varty explained. “We’re cleaning all the time.”

Now, the center needs help and they’re asking for monetary donations to help its seniors by preparing emergency food and supplies.

“To stop them from going outdoors, we just need some emergency food,” Varty said.” That is what we’re asking monetary donations for.”

Initially, center representatives said they planned to host a food drive, but realized that would require a lot of contact with people dropping off donations, so they decided to take the online route and set up a GoFundMe account.

If you’d like to help, visit RBJ’s GoFundMe page.

A growing community

The center is in the process of expanding. An additional building with 279 units is being constructed next door to the current center. It’s estimated to cost around $40 million. The new building is expected to be ready by 2022.

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