Allen Eiry Senior Center hosted two installments of its annual meeting this week to review events of the past year, announce upcoming programs, answer questions and hear ideas that could be implemented at the center, now located at 28 Hopewell Ave., near the fairgrounds.
Director Sue Hampshire began by introducing the center's board of directors, including Larry Baker, Mary Eichhorn, Ann Hutzel, Jim Long, Cory Schultz and Phyllis Wertz.
The most significant event of 2011 was the move to Hopewell Avenue. Even while preparations were going on, the center's programs went on with minimal disruption. The final day at Orchard Park was June 17 and the new site opened July 11, 2011, with separate areas for stained glass and various crafts, a "man cave," book nook and a large meeting room.
"Activities resumed with business as usual. The gift shop was open with crafts made by our members, under the direction of Mona Kidwell, our activities coordinator. Carolyn and John Fetzer made the 'book nook,'" Hampshire said.
By August, the move was complete, and Director Carolyn Griffin retired. Connie Blaser agreed to serve as interim director until the board could select a new executive director. The center had a public open house Oct. 21 and a spaghetti dinner benefit Nov. 17 at the AMVETS hall.
In February 2012, Hampshire was named the new Allen Eiry director.
In looking to the future, a major project is about to begin. Larry Baker said the board has decided to launch a capital campaign, the first in the Allen Eiry Center's history. It is to start this fall and run into summer 2013 with a goal of $500,000 to purchase the building, add a kitchen and make major repairs to the roof and air handling units. Because the property is a rental, the center must pay real estate taxes, even though Allen Eiry is a non-profit. Taking ownership of the building would end those assessments.
"This building is owned by Mercy Hospital. At the present time, we are leasing it, and we have a three-year lease, which started in July last year. So two years from this July, our lease expires, and we have the opportunity to purchase the building at that time and apply the rent payments we've been making each month to the purchase price," Baker said. "We have every reason to believe that half a million dollars is a modest campaign goal, and it will certainly ensure that we will have a facility that will serve the needs of Allen Eiry for many years to come."
The honorary chairmen of the campaign are Dr. and Mrs. Anthony Lupica. Janet Shutt and Lee Martin are to serve as co-chairs.
Baker told members they may be called upon to help solicit pledges and donations. People and businesses will be able to make pledges over a three-year period. After the building is purchased, Baker said the roof project would be a priority, followed by air handlers. The campaign goal does not include establishment of an endowment.
"There's places for all that money to go ... It's all needed," Baker said.
Hampshire said utility costs and other expenses have increased since the center relocated, and more funds are needed now, in addition to what may be brought in from the capital campaign.
Travel coordinator Sara Wax said she tries to offer trips in different price ranges that are affordable for center members. She said local publications have been publicizing trips, and Tiffin auto dealers have helped acquire and maintain the center's vehicles. One of them helped secure a grant for $20,000 from a local charitable fund. She said community support for Allen Eiry has been positive.
In looking at the future, Wax said the center must consider upgrading at least one bus. Fees paid for trips only cover a fraction of the cost of a new vehicle. The center owns a smaller van available to transport members to the center, but arrangements must be made in advance. Only three drivers are certified to operate the center's vehicles, as specified by its insurance carrier. Members also can contact SCAT or the Commission on Aging for transportation.
Member Nancy Price called the center her "home away from home." Board member Eichhorn commented on the importance of a senior center in the community. She said families are grateful their elderly loved ones have a place to go for activities, travel and socialization. Hampshire said she wished her parents had been able to enjoy a center such as Allen Eiry.
"It's their opportunity to go out and meet friends or make friends, and it's a lifeline for many people to enhance their lives. It's a place to go, it's a place to do things, it's a place for everybody." Eichhorn said. "Otherwise, they would be home alone."
The Allen Eiry Senior Center is a United Way agency open to anyone 50 years and older. Membership is $15 per year per person. A newsletter is sent to members once a month. Special rates are available to members for trips. The center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
To learn more, call (419) 448-9774 or send email to email@example.com.