Slideshow: Around the senior center
It’s not just lunch and bingo. A senior citizens center is a community that prolongs a person’s independence, according to Faulkner County Senior Citizens program director Debra Robinson.
Robinson said many seniors benefitting from the program say without it, they’d be in a nursing home.
Each weekday the center in Conway, serving the largest number of seniors in the county, provides a lunch, social support and activities.
On a given day, the center may offer exercise, food, music and dancing, games, and transportation to doctor appointments as far as Little Rock.
Since the Conway facility was approved as a Senior Wellness and Activity Center in October, Robinson and other directors have wanted to add more programs — hopefully ones to attract younger seniors as well.
"We want to promote health to younger seniors so they can have better quality of life as they age," Robinson said.
"Statistics tell us the senior population is growing at a rapid pace, and we want to be prepared for that and have a place seniors can congregate and socialize."
Robinson said the roughly 9,000 square-foot center at 1620 Donaghey Ave. is limited due to space constraints.
"We have a full calendar of activities. We’re already having to put up tables and take them down all the time to make room for what’s next. Some people want to do other activities besides the ones that are scheduled," she said.
With these things in mind, "the ball started rolling" toward a new center.
Especially after the program received a $200,000 allocation in February from the Community Development Block Grant budget, the dream gained footing.
Robinson said it was DJ and Lucinda Waller who contacted the program once they heard the center was looking to expand.
The Wallers own the Agora, a rental events venue on Siebenmorgen Road.
Robinson said the Wallers offered to sell the venue at an original asking price of just over $2 million. The price was negotiated to $1.95 million, she said.
The Agora is about 19,000 square feet, and has a floor plan that can easily meet expectations Robinson and her Board of Directors had in a brand new construct.
Architectural plans donated by the Nabholz Family Foundation for a new center reflected a $9 million building.
Remodeling and refurnishing the Agora carries far less expense, Robinson said.
Lori Case Melton, co-chair with Linda Linn of the committee charged with leading a quick-paced capital campaign, said the committee’s goal before summer is $2.875 million.
"That’s for the building, furnishings and remodel," Melton said.
Melton said a lot of the sum will come from foundation grants, but the program will depend on local leaders and organizations to achieve the goal.
"Most foundation grants are matching grants," she said.
A media campaign officially announcing the campaign is coming, Melton said, and she and Linn will make rounds at civic clubs and city meetings.
"We have a hit list. We’ll knock it out one at a time," she said.
Melton said the group already has pledges, so $2.875 million is "not that daunting."
"It’s an easy sell because everyone should use (the program) some time. If not now, they will. Everyone should want to go to the senior center," she said.
Preliminary plans for a new center include a health and fitness center, media room, computer room, music room, an area for conferences or classes, an arts and crafts room, a game room, an indoor walking track, offices, a kitchen, and a central dining or ballroom.
Robinson said she is optimistic the center will move to the Agora by summer.
The old facility will be posted for sale.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)
The Conway Senior Wellness and Activity Center serves as headquarters for all senior citizens programs associated with the Faulkner County Council on Aging.
Senior programs deliver approximately 92,000 meals to homebound seniors each year.
The program serves 39,000 meals at six centers in Faulkner County.
The program provides about 20,000 rides to doctor appointments, senior centers and human service agencies.
Programs operate on a budget of $865,000.
Funding comes from federal, state, county and city governments, contributions from seniors, fundraisers, individual donations, and the United Way.
(Facts provided by Faulkner County Council on Aging)