COLUMBIA – When Sean Spence heard in September that the City Council was going to reduce funding for recreation at Paquin Tower, he decided to do something about it.
“I saw the issues folks were having at Paquin and when I heard that funding was being cut, I suggested fundraising within the community,” said Spence, chair of the Columbia Accessible Recreation at Paquin committee.
Spence formed the CARE@Paquin committee to raise money to preserve activities offered to citizens over the age of 50 and individuals with disabilities. The committee has 10 members, including two Paquin Tower residents, and it first met on Jan. 13.
The program offers art classes, shuttle services to grocery stores, breakfast clubs and movie nights among other activities. All classes and services are available to the entire community.
CARE@Paquin is Spence's latest endeavor in a laundry list of civic work, which includes efforts with the Missouri Innovation Center and the American Heart Association in town. He ran for the 25th District House seat in 2008.
Spence said the program has received funding from the city for 35 years. The city budget, approved in September, cut roughly $16,000 from the $88,000 budget, an 18 percent decrease. Spence said two part-time employees at Paquin have lost their jobs because of the cutback.
"Office hours have been cut. I think there are some hurt feelings," Paquin resident Chuck Dudley Jr. said. "The program helps people get out of their homes. It kept people from staring at their walls."
Originally, the council planned to cut funding altogether. But after a series of discussions, Spence persuaded the city to give the program more time if private funds were raised.
"You can tell a lot about a community by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens," said Sarah Catlin-Dupuy, a member of the CARE@Paquin executive board. "I hate to think what it says about us that Columbians would sit idly by while the city cuts funding for this unique program. The members of City Council should be ashamed of themselves."
In a Missourian article in July 2008, City Manager Bill Watkins was reported as having written in an e-mail to the council that the program was too expensive, while generating nearly no revenue and serving only a small group of people.
"Because of various disabilities, some of the residents are limited in what they can do, but they are willing to do whatever they can," said Richard Craghead, a Paquin resident.
CARE@Paquin fundraisers will include direct mailing and dinners. A movie night will be held at the Crossings Church on April 1, and an awards dinner at a to-be-determined date in May.
According to committee minutes Josh Burrell of the Crossings Church will be organizing members of the church to help raise money.
First Ward City Councilman Paul Sturtz is lending his name for the cause in an upcoming direct mailing effort. “They’ve been making do with a less amount of money, but it’s a high needs population,” Sturtz said.
Anyone interested in joining the committee or finding out more can contact Spence at 823-1308.