An open house is planned for 2-4 p.m. Oct. 21 at 28 Hopewell Ave., the new location for the Allen Eiry Senior Center. July 5, the center reopened after moving from its former location on Orchard Park. Mercy Tiffin Hospital still owns the property, but the center is leasing the L-shaped building next to and behind Wendy's restaurant with hopes of purchasing the facility in the future.
The Tiffin Charitable Foundation awarded the center a grant to replace some carpeting and to purchase a new computer and software. Member Mike Durso constructed and painted a new sign. The center also has a new interim director, Connie Blaser. In 1996, she was hired as the secretary for the Orchard Park center.
"She's a jack of all trades," the center's membership chairwoman, Marilyn Mangano, said.
Blaser said visitors can disregard signs that restrict parking. Those were put up by the hospital and have yet to be removed. The building has three entrances: one facing Hopewell Avenue, one adjacent to the rear parking lot and one facing Market Street, making the center more accessible than it was before.
"We've got more space and lots of parking," Blaser said. "We want people to come and see us and use the center. They don't have to be a member of the center to use the center."
Board members Nancy Harnischfeger and Marilyn Mangano provided a preview for the open house, while fellow board member Don Gordon and his wife, Thelma, were in the office visiting with Blaser. The Gordons have put in a lot of hours finding the new site and getting the new center into operation.
Unlike the large open area the center occupied at Orchard Park, the new location has a multitude of smaller rooms that once served as offices and other purposes. The kitchen is being updated and expanded. One part of the building has a large room that can be divided with partitions. The area next to the windows facing Market Street has become the venue for card games and board games.
"We have card players here every week ... a lot of pinochle and euchre players," Mangano said. "We never had this much space before."
Two rooms have been converted to stained-glass studios. Ronald Pepper, retired Heidelberg University professor, obtains the glass and teaches classes. Members who have projects to work on also can come in at other times and days to work individually. Pepper often is there to assist.
"He donated a piece of stained glass for our open house," Harnischfeger said.
Two other rooms are devoted to needle crafts and general crafts. Having separate rooms for projects allows unfinished items to be left out until they can be completed. Activities coordinator Mona Cook works at the center three days a week planning games, special events and various items to sell in the gift shop area.
Cook provided a list of regular activities that go on at the center. They include: crafts Monday and Tuesday mornings; board games and cards Monday and Tuesday afternoons; Wednesday morning sewing club; Wednesday afternoon bowling September through April; and Thursday morning golf May through August.
"John and Carolyn Fetzer put together a book nook," Harnischfeger said. "They started it over at the other center."
Regular hours at the Allen Eiry Center are 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Membership is open to those age 50 and older. Dues are $20 per year, which includes the newsletter and "first dibs" on the trips. The cost of trips is more for non-members.
"At this time, membership is about 850 members," Blaser said.
"A lot of people join just because they want to go on a trip and don't do anything else. Somebody else comes in for the crafts or to play cards or do stained glass," Mangano said. "The active seniors are the ones who live longer."
Sara Wax plans trips.
The Allen Eiry Senior Center has two 25-passenger buses for the day trips, but she charters coaches for longer excursions. She tries to schedule about 45 day trips and four multi-day trips per year. Sometimes, she visits a site before planning a trip for the center.
"I go to as many travel shows as I can. I do a lot of reading and research," Wax said. "I do a lot of phoning. I'm not a computer person. ... There's something (more personal) about me calling and talking to the manager."
Wax always asks if the motel or hotel can give a simple welcoming reception for the travelers. Usually, they comply. She also looks for courthouses, artists, businesses and factories that are willing to give tours of their facilities as optional stops.
"She's taken us to the Mustard Museum in Wisconsin and the Jello Museum in New York. We've gone to some weird museums, but they're interesting," said traveler Marilyn Mangano.
"I think there's a lot to see in Tiffin. We've toured Tiffin four times," Wax said. "People like me are looking for little towns like Tiffin."
A popular offering is "Grandma and Grandpa" trips that allow seniors to bring their grandchildren. Those tours usually include a theater production, sports event or an educational destination.