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Senior assistance program facing tough times ahead

After 10 years of hosting a fundraiser via fairy tales and music, the next chapter of James Seastrand Helping Hands of North Las Vegas’ story has taken a grim turn.

Recent changes to the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District theater rental prices will prevent the senior assistance program, 3640 N. 5th St., Suite 130, from hosting its annual musical this year.

The event usually yields about $10,000 and helps the organization continue to offer transportation, paper products and home repairs to about 1,200 needy seniors a year. Without the boost, the nonprofit’s officials are unsure of 2012’s outlook.

“The hardest thing is, one of the main ways we get our name out to the community is through these shows,” said executive director Marcia Blake. “The money is hard, but the community awareness about our seniors and our organization is what is going to hit us the hardest.”

James Seastrand Helping Hands of North Las Vegas was started in 1998 by former North Las Vegas mayor James Seastrand’s wife, Rosel Seastrand, to “foster independence” in seniors. The ovearching goal is to enable them to remain in their own homes rather than be institutionalized.

In 2000, Rosel Seastrand, a lover of fine arts, decided to arrange a musical to raise funds and highlight the charitable organization’s efforts. The first production, “The Wizard of Oz,” was a success, and a yearly tradition was born. Rosel Seastrand died in 2002, but the musical lived on.

“A group of people who participated decided to get together and keep the show going to ensure her legacy continued,” Blake said.

The productions bounced around local venues before settling in the performance theater of the Summerlin Library, 1771 Inner Circle Drive, for the last seven years.

Volunteer cast and crew members helped the organization bring in about $10,000 per year, Blake said.

“The group as a whole has become a big family,” she said.

The 2012 production has been canceled because the organization can’t afford recently doubled rental fees at the library. In May, the library board voted to raise rates from about $50 per hour to $170. With taxes and security costs, the fee is about $220 per hour to rent the theater space, Blake said.

Blake’s group usually reserves the theater for three weeks in June, and this year’s production would have been about $30,000 in rental fees alone.

“(The library board) made it impossible for all organizations who want to use the facility,” she said. “Even if you’re in there a day, you can’t make enough money to make it worth your while.”

Blake attended public hearings at the library and said the hike wasn’t discussed until about five minutes before the vote.

“That number was not part of the discussion that we heard in the public meetings,” she said. “It was literally over in less than five minutes.”

Blake has been in correspondence with library officials and said the earliest the rate issue could be revisited is this month.

“We are hoping the library district will reconsider, and we will be back in the 2013,” Blake said.

Until then, the organization is looking for other ways to make up for the $10,000 loss. The organization receives additional support from donors. For more information on James Seastrand Helping Hands of North Las Vegas, contact 649-7853 or visit jshhnlv.org.

Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@viewnews.com or 477-3839.

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